All Points Medical Waste Blog

What’s happening with the Coronavirus?

How does it affect healthcare workers & medical waste generators in the United States?

It’s all we are hearing about on every news channel—the Coronavirus, a novel illness that originated in Wuhan, China is causing panic among people all across the world. To date, tens of thousands of people in China and 25 other countries have been infected with the Coronavirus, including more than a dozen in the United States. More than 700 people who’ve contracted the virus have died and thousands more are suffering with symptoms. Cruise ships are being detained and quarantined and everyone is on high alert for this potentially fatal illness. If you’re a healthcare worker or deal with medical waste, it’s important that you know what’s happening with the Coronavirus and what agencies like OSHA and NWRA (National Waste and Recycling Association) are recommending to reduce risk of exposure. Take a look:

How is the Coronavirus spread?

Just like the common cold, other viruses and the flu, the Coronavirus is spread through human-to-human contact. When a person who is infected with the virus sneezes or coughs they can expel respiratory droplets into the air—anyone who is in close range, within 6 feet of the person, can be exposed to the pathogens that cause the virus.

Healthcare Workers Are at Risk

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has set forth some guidelines and recommendations for those who work in the healthcare industry. Workers who are caring for patients with confirmed or possible exposure to the Coronavirus should do the following:

  • Place a facemask on the patient and isolate them in an Airborne Infection Isolation Room (AIIR), if available
  • Use eye protection and follow the industry standard precautions, contact precautions and airborne precautions when treating patients with the Coronavirus
  • Perform hand hygiene with alcohol-based hand rub before and after all patient contact, contact with potentially infectious material, and before putting on and after removing PPE (personal protective equipment), including gloves
  • Use soap and water if hands are visibly soiled

Guidelines for Medical Waste Generators and Personnel

As of this writing, there have been 12 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the United States. One American citizen has died from the illness in a hospital in Wuhan, China. Those who manage medical waste are asked to continue to stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the virus and to follow OSHA’s guidelines when it comes to storing, managing and disposing of waste. Workers and employees should manage waste contaminated with the Coronavirus as they would other regulated medical waste. OSHA encourages workers to use appropriate safe work practices and PPE, including puncture-resistant gloves and face and eye protection, to prevent exposure to medical waste, including sharps and other items that can cause injuries or exposure to infectious materials.

It is also suggested that medical waste disposal companies request that their customers take the following precautionary measures to reduce risk:

  • Properly close and tie red bags with an overhand balloon knot to ensure they cannot leak before they are moved
  • Make sure all red bags are placed in a container with a secure lid
  • Sharps containers should be fully closed and placed in a bag and placed in a container
  • When possible, single use disposable sharps containers should be used in place of reusable sharps containers
  • Containers should be single use and in compliance with DOT regulatory requirements for regulated medical waste
  • Alert your medical waste disposal provider that waste may contain Coronavirus

Although the spread of the Coronavirus is alarming, it is always best to be aware of what’s happening and the steps you can take to prevent exposure and illness. Like the flu, other viruses and the common cold, this new virus is not deadly to all who contract it—the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and infants are at a greater risk.

All Points Medical Waste is a family owned and operated medical waste disposal provider serving South Florida. Find out more by filling out this form or give us a call today.

Dawn Connelly

Dawn is the vice president of All Points Medical Waste. All Points Medical Waste is a family-owned and operated medical waste disposal and compliance company that has been serving the Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches, and surrounding areas since 1994.
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