COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Below are common questions, answers, and resources for our NorthStar Anesthesia clinicians and corporate employees. We will keep this information updated on a regular basis. If you have questions that are not addressed below, please reach out to infection.control@northstaranesthesia.com.

  • Do we have guidance around managing the airway for patients?

    Here is a very comprehensive guide for COVID-19 Airway Management protocol: https://icmanaesthesiacovid-19.org/airway-management

    Here is an infographic for you to download and post in your anesthesia office, ICUs, and EDs: APSF Airway Infographic

    American Patient Safety Foundation has also developed a resource center for COVID-19 information: https://www.apsf.org/novel-coronavirus-covid-19-resource-center/

  • Is there guidance around the use of Personal Protective Equipment when managing our patients?

    Here is CDC's most updated PPE information:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/infection-control/infection-prevention-control-faq.html

  • There is concern about the availability of N95 masks - how can we optimize the supply?

    The CDC has a strategy specifically addressing this concern: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirators-strategy/index.html 

  • When can I return to work after I have been on home quarantine for COVID 19?

    Per the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/healthcare-facilities/hcp-return-work.html#practices-restrictions), there are two options for determining when a person may end home isolation, using either (1) a test-based option or (2) a non-test based option (a time-since-illness and time-since-recovery).

    • Test-based strategy  (simplified from initial protocol): Persons who have COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
      • Resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications; and
      • Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
      • Negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized molecular assay for COVID-19 from at least two consecutive nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected ≥24 hours apart (total of two negative specimens).

     Individuals with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 who have not had any symptoms may discontinue home isolation when at least seven days have passed since the date of their first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test and have had no subsequent illness. 

    • Non-test-based strategy  (Time-since-illness-onset and time-since-recovery strategy): Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
      • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
      • Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
      • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
  • If I’m pregnant, am I more susceptible or at increased risk for COVID-19?

    There are few published reports at this time referring to SARS-CoV-19. 

    Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19 when compared to the general public.

    In a limited case study (published in peer-reviewed literature) a series of infants born to mothers with COVID-19 none of the infants have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.  Additionally, no significant viral load has been detected in samples of amniotic fluid.

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/pregnant-women-faq.html

    https://emergency.cdc.gov/coca/calls/2020/callinfo_031220.asp?fbclid=IwAR3Qxb6mPWemfg1YpK90gcdbwO1iMj9CUOTgECOxXtK6xN9KNN0o1hXXNbE

  • My hospital has a limited supply of N95 masks. Can I re-use my N95? How can I decontaminate and store the masks we do have?

    N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators Decontamination and Reuse (FFR-DR)

    N95 reuse is certainly not optimal, however if faced with a choice of reusing an N95 vs. improvising (using a mask which hasn’t been certified or fit-tested), the clear choice is to decontaminate and reuse (DR).

    The following are some suggestions based upon the primary sources below when reusing an N95 mask: 

    • Decontaminate if possible between uses. This will depend heavily on the equipment and processes available in your facility or locality. 
    • Prior to entering the anesthetizing location don your N 95 mask and then place a surgical mask over the N95 followed by a plastic face shield.
    • Always wear an N95 mask, surgical mask, plastic face shield, full gown, gloves (double glove) and adhere to universal precautions when interacting with a known or suspected COVID (+) patient.
    • Once you have donned your N95 mask do not remove until the end of your shift (extended use). The surgical mask which was placed over the N95 can be removed between cases.

    Manufacturers say to use the masks up to 8 hours and discard, however if decontaminated and stored properly the mask may be reused multiple times (dependent upon time of usage and decontamination technique).

    Covering with a surgical mask and full-face shield (e.g., use of barriers) may help prevent droplet spray contamination.  Face shields will be more protective than goggles from droplet contamination.

    It is highly advisable that you review the primary literature (see links below) to evaluate your local decontamination resources.

    Evidence based ultraviolet germicidal irradiation information from the University of Nebraska should be reviewed and evaluated for local practicality (see below).

    Anecdotal evidence from a major U.S. university recommends wiping the filter surface with a bleach wipe and then dry in a paper bag marked with your name. 

    • Do not soak in bleach (see NIH article below) and do not use alcohol as it will disrupt the electrostatic surface charges necessary to trap viral particles.

    Centers for Disease Control 

    https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hcwcontrols/recommendedguidanceextuse.html

    Existing CDC guidelines recommend a combination of approaches to conserve supplies while safeguarding health care workers.

    The decision to implement policies that permit extended use or limited reuse of N95 respirators should be made by the professionals who manage the institution’s respiratory protection program in consultation with their occupational health and infection control departments.

    Extended use is favored over reuse because it is expected to involve less touching of the respirator and therefore less risk of contact transmission. 

    • A key consideration for safe extended use is that the respirator must maintain its fit and function.

    Discard N95 respirators following use during aerosol generating procedures. 

    Decontaminate and hang used respirators in a designated storage area or keep them in a clean, breathable container such as a paper bag between uses.  Discard the paper bag between uses since the inside of the bag may be contaminated.

     

    APIC - Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

    https://www.apic.org/Resource_/TinyMceFileManager/Advocacy-PDFs/APIC_Position_Ext_the_Use_and_or_Reus_Resp_Prot_in_Hlthcare_Settings1209l.pdf

    Refers to CDC guidelines for conserving respirators and discusses alternatives to N95 respirators, including powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs)

    Extending the use or reusing respiratory protection is preferred over prioritizing the allocation of N95 respirators and surgical/procedure masks based on exposure risk.

    Consider labeling the respirator with the user’s name to prevent staff from reusing another’s respirator; labeling should be written on the straps whenever feasible to prevent damage to the respirator

    AJIC - American Journal of Infection Control

    https://www.ajicjournal.org/artic…/S0196-6553(18)30140-8/pdf

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/…/PMC46994…/pdf/nihms747549.pdf

    University of Nebraska**

    https://repository.netecweb.org/items/show/838

    **UVGI based decontamination methods, including UV tower and bulb description with workflow process.

    UVGI requires appropriate UV equipment.  UV dosing (joules/cm2), temperature and humidity measurements may be necessary to ensure appropriate decontamination.

    The UVGI method requires dose-dependent decontamination period, however this method “may be most suitable for large-scale applications due to simplicity of use and ability to rapidly scale”.

    The results of the NIH study indicate FFR-DR (Decontaminate and Reuse) can be effective. Building on a 2011 study (Heimbuch et al), this study evaluated the decontamination efficiency of an optimized UVGI dose (1J/cm2) delivered to an intact FFR contaminated with both H1N1 influenza and a soiling agent.

    For FFR-DR, FFR face pieces pose the greatest challenge for UVGI disinfection, whereas FFR straps can likely be disinfected through alternative means (e.g. disinfecting wipes).

    Annals of Work Exposure and Health (2012)

    https://academic.oup.com/annweh/article/56/1/92/166111

    This study showed that three decontamination methods (UVGI, MGS, and MH) satisfactorily decontaminated the 3M 1860s and 1870 FFRs as measured by a virus culture method.

    Within the constraints of the experiment, the three methods were all completely effective for the decontamination of FFRs as assessed by a culture method. These conclusions are further supported by data reported by Heimbuch et al. (2011) in which H1N1 droplets and droplet nuclei applied to six models of FFRs were decontaminated using the same three energetic methods described here.

    These findings suggest that, when properly implemented, these decontamination methods could suppress cross-contamination through contact with FFRs during situations in which reusing FFRs is necessary. However, these conclusions apply only to the models tested in this study.  

    Although this study did not investigate the effect of these treatments on fit, Viscusi et al. (2011) reported no significant decrease in the protective capability of FFRs following decontamination.

    Caveat:  The consideration for reuse of FFRs following decontamination must address two major issues: first, whether the FFR retains full function and provides a similar level of protection after treatment and second whether the decontamination treatment is effective at reducing the infectious capability of the targeted organism. This study focused primarily on the second point and the development of methods for accurate assessment of the amount of virus contaminating the FFR and the amount removed by the decontamination method.

    Annals of Occupational Hygiene (2009)

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781738/

    Although there are currently no guidelines for the level of decontamination required for contaminated FFRs, multiple FFR-DR methods have shown significant reductions in virus viability.  The decontamination method must remove the viral threat, be harmless to the user, and not compromise the integrity of the various elements of the respirator.

    Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide (VHP) decontamination is an option for N95s, if your facility that has this.  Hydrogen peroxide vapor is often used to disinfect entire rooms, but a chamber can be made for purposes of mask disinfection.

    UVGI is another option but is limited by available equipment, as discussed above (Univ of Nebraska and AJIC).

    Ethylene Oxide (EtO) is used in a wide range of work settings as a sterilant or fumigant, including healthcare diagnosis and treatment facilities, and medical products manufacturing.

    Microwave oven irradiation and bleach baths were found to be the “least desirable”.

    3M Surgical N95 Infographic

     https://multimedia.3m.com/…/surgical-n95-vs-standard-n95-wh…

    Medical/surgical N95s are appropriate.  Hardware store masks have not been studied for efficacy.

     

  • My hospital has limited N95 masks. Is there a method to make my own mask?

    A professionally manufactured N95 mask is always preferred, however if no alternatives are available you might consider the following video technique.

    A surgical mask placed over the filter intake may also provide additional protection.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es_iY5WJdmI

  • There are so many changing rules and recommendations about travel. Where can I find the latest?

    The CDC is continuously changing their recommendations as the Covid-19 situation changes.  If you have traveled to China, Iran, most European Countries, United Kingdom and Ireland, you will be required to quarantine for 14 days.  This also applies to South Korea.  If you want to see the latest specifics from the CDC, use this link- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

  • If asked by administrators are NorthStar anesthesia providers expected to perform non-anesthesia services at our facilities?

    We understand these are dynamic times and are here to support the local community of patients and providers. However, we are contractually permitted to provide anesthesia care to patients at each of our facilities. Our providers are trained in providing this care and are covered to provide these services to patients. Our providers should be expected to provide the high-level of care contracted with NorthStar. Unnecessary exposure to non-anesthesia patients puts providers at risk and may limit our ability to provide upcoming anesthesia needs. We are here to support the patients that are impacted by COVID-19, however, we cannot ask our providers to provide clinical care that they are not comfortable providing. We will support both the facility and patients when and where our expertise allows.

  • If surgeries are postponed due to COVID-19, how is the reduction in staffing shared across the team?

    The clinical and operations leadership are working closely to design a staffing framework that meets our facility surgical demand and ensures that we maintain staff for when surgical cases resume. Each Chief and Medical Director as well as the regional clinical and operations leaders should determine the best approach to ensuring that coverage is provided, and reduction of provider staffing is spread equitably across the team.

  • If my City, State or local jurisdiction has a shelter in place order will I still be able to commute to work?

    Yes.  Our provider’s work falls in the category of “Essential Services” and because of that, you are able to continue to go to work.  Furthermore, NorthStar believes that you should not experience any issues commuting to work as long as you have your facility badge; however, as an extra precaution, we are supplying our clinicians with a letter to carry with them to show to law enforcement, if needed, to further verify their employment.  Click on your state below to download the letter*:

    Illinois

    West Virginia

    Pennsylvania

    Ohio

    Michigan

    *These documents are restricted to NorthStar Anesthesia employees only. You will be prompted to login using your NorthStar credentials to access the document. For assistance in logging in, please contact helpdesk@northstaranesthesia.com.

  • Can I take a voluntary unpaid leave of absence (LOA) instead of using PTO?

    Yes. During this unprecedented crisis, we understand that some teammates may need to be home due to the impact of COVID-19 on our daily lives. In addition to allowing the use of PTO without prior approval, we are allowing teammates the option to take a voluntary unpaid LOA. For information on how to request this, click here*.

    *This document is restricted to NorthStar Anesthesia employees only. You will be prompted to login using your NorthStar credentials to access the document. For assistance in logging in, please contact helpdesk@northstaranesthesia.com.

  • Does NorthStar have any resources for employees to help manage stress and emotions during this time of crisis?

    Click here* to learn more or use the services available.

    *This document is restricted to NorthStar Anesthesia employees only. You will be prompted to login using your NorthStar credentials to access the document. For assistance in logging in, please contact helpdesk@northstaranesthesia.com.

  • If my schedule has been reduced because of a decline in volumes, can I choose to take unpaid time off instead of PTO?

    For information on this topic, click here*.

    *This document is restricted to NorthStar Anesthesia employees only. You will be prompted to login using your NorthStar credentials to access the document. For assistance in logging in, please contact helpdesk@northstaranesthesia.com.

  • What steps do I take if I am hurt, injured, or exposed at work?

    Click here for answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions including information on who to contact and instructions on reporting an injury or exposure.

  • Who do I contact if I still have questions related to taking a voluntary or involuntary leave of absence (LOA)?

    Please reach out to our NorthStar Benefits Team. They are monitoring this mailbox and working tirelessly to respond to questions as promptly as possible.

  • Need to see a doctor while at the same time limiting your exposure to germs and viruses?

    Our health plan benefit includes telehealth coverage through MDLIVE.  If covered employees or their qualified dependents have symptoms of the coronavirus, MDLIVE board-certified doctors are available to help 24/7.

    Through this service, physicians can assess your condition and help determine the necessary next steps, all from the comfort of your home.  Along with the coronavirus, MDLIVE physicians can diagnose and treat many other common illnesses.

    Quality healthcare in the comfort of your own home is just a click away!  Click here to view available options for accessing MDLIVE.

  • Is a voluntary LOA available to all employees during this period of low census (regardless of reason)?

    For information on this topic, click here*.

    *This document is restricted to NorthStar Anesthesia employees only. You will be prompted to login using your NorthStar credentials to access the document. For assistance in logging in, please contact helpdesk@northstaranesthesia.com.

  • What is NorthStar's stance on the appropriate use of social media?

    We understand that social media can be an important way to connect with family, friends, and co-workers across the globe. However, the use of social media also presents certain risks and carries with it certain responsibilities, especially in a time of crisis like we are experiencing. Please click here* for more information about NorthStar's Social Media Policy.

    *This document is restricted to NorthStar Anesthesia employees only. You will be prompted to login using your NorthStar credentials to access the document. For assistance in logging in, please contact helpdesk@northstaranesthesia.com.

  • How do I change my 401(k) deferral amount (the amount that comes out of my paycheck)?

    Please click here* for information about how to change the amount.

    *This document is restricted to NorthStar Anesthesia employees only. You will be prompted to login using your NorthStar credentials to access the document. For assistance in logging in, please contact helpdesk@northstaranesthesia.com.

  • How do I get IT help working remotely or trying to access a system?

    Just send an email to helpdesk@northstaranesthesia.com and your request will be routed to our IT Service Desk.

  • What if someone needs to reach me when I’m not at work?

    Please help us ensure that we have the most up to date information on file for our employees should we need to reach all teammates, including those not at the office at the time, by reviewing your Personal and Emergency Contact information in Workday to ensure it is correct.

     Click here for step by step instructions for reviewing and updating your information in Workday.  Please be aware that contact information is updated with the least number of steps in Workday when doing so from a computer.   Click Here to Login to Workday

  • How do I track COVID-19 related time off in Workday and Polaris?

    For specifics related to logging time off, click here for Polaris and here for Workday information. Providers, please note that it is important you track time off in Polaris (as well as Workday) to ensure facility schedulers have the most up-to-date information to inform daily staffing arrangements.