An Ounce of Prevention: Coronavirus

Caregiving Resource | January 31, 2020 | by Dee Pekruhn

Amidst all the global coverage of the novel coronavirus, communities with sensitive populations need to keep an eye on prevention. Here’s how LeadingAge members can prepare our communities, our staff, and the people we serve to prevent the spread of the virus.


On February 6, CMS released a memo to all Medicare-participating healthcare facilities regarding the novel Coronavirus. This memo provides resources for providers, including those from the CDC linked below. CMS also strongly encourages providers to take the following steps:

  • Review your emergency preparedness plans.
  • Review your infection control plans.
  • Review your supplies, including personal protective equipment, for appropriate stock and usage.

What is Happening?

The first US domestic case of the novel Coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, was reported on January 21, 2020. As of this writing, the number of confirmed cases worldwide was over 9,800 people, with reported 200 fatalities. There are about 100 cases confirmed in 19 countries outside of China; most reported cases are currently found within China itself.

What are the Symptoms?

Reportedly, people who have coronavirus have mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath; many later develop pneumonia in both lungs.

How Can We Prepare Our Community?

  • Review, below, the preparatory guidelines and fact sheets from the World Health Organization and CDC.
  • Follow your community’s protocol for infection prevention and control.
  • Develop an internal message to proactively acknowledge the current situation, share accurate and relevant information about the coronavirus, and assure community members that you are taking all necessary steps to promote their health and safety.
  • Reinforce to all community members the importance of washing hands frequently, cleaning high-touch surfaces regularly, seeking medical attention when sick, and staying home when sick.

What If One of Our Members Has the Virus?

  • Review the CDC guidelines for infection control.
  • Enable that person to seek and/or receive medical attention.
  • Follow your community’s protocol for infection prevention and control, and member PHI confidentiality.
  • Notify the appropriate state and federal public health authorities.

What is the Global Response?

The World Health Organization announced on Thursday, January 30 2020 that this is a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Many countries have stopped most or all international transit to and from China. The US State department has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory telling citizens “Do Not Travel” to China. Emergency aide is being coordinated in many countries.

Where Can I Learn More?

As the novel coronavirus situation develops, and additional resources are made available, we will update and keep you posted! Comments or questions? Reach out to Dee.