Visitor restrictions in long-term care (LTC) during an outbreak or pandemic are implemented due to the perceived risk of transmission between residents or staff and visitors.
· Social isolation and possible loss of care resulting from visitor restrictions in LTC may place residents at risk of poorer outcomes in terms of both physical and mental health, as well as distress to families and staff (see Saskatchewan LTC Network Family Perspective).
· Visitor restriction policies typically allow visits for compassionate reasons that include end of life, critical care, and support of persons who require assistance beyond that provided by healthcare e.g. support for feeding, mobility, or behaviors, but specific detail on these is not consistent or clear.
· Recent changes to visitation policies in Australia are less restrictive and allow brief visitations (end of table 1, noted in red font).
· Although the majority of policies describe a need for flexibility and case-by-case assessment of visits deemed “essential”, the majority of policies are not clear in who is to conduct this analysis or the criteria that should be used to make these decisions.
Visitation policies differ in detail regarding the number of visitors allowed at one time, total number of visitors allowed, visit duration, mobility within the home and location of the visit.
· Remote and technology assisted visits are to be facilitated by LTC staff.
· Infection control practices are enforced for visitors, and may include screening (e.g. temperature, symptoms, travel and contact history), prohibiting ill visitors, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), hand and cough hygiene.
· Education of visitors and support for proper infection control practices is encouraged in the majority of policies.
Tupper, S; Ward, H; Howell-Spooner, B; Dalidowicz, M; Boden, C. How is "compassionate visit" defined and operationalized in the context of an infectious outbreak or pandemic in long-term care? 2020 May 1; Document no.: LTC042402
RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 17 p. (CEST rapid review report)
Core concepts of family engagement include dignity and respect, information sharing, participation in care and decision making, and collaboration (Hart 2020).
A careful balance needs to be maintained between attending to patients’ physical and psychological needs and adhering to infection control guidelines, while offering psychological support to family members (Chan 2006).
The word ‘visitation’ does not adequately describe family members’ involvement. Family presence is a more suitable term as it redefines families as partners in care (Hart 2020). However, it is important to recognize that family presence is not a substitute for adequate staffing levels.
Very little guidance is provided in the literature on innovative or specific approaches engage family care providers during a pandemic. The literature mainly focuses on supporting alternate forms of communication such as telephone calls, or technology assisted communication through social media or video/voice calls.
Enhanced communication strategies that provide regular information to a primary family contact on the patient/resident condition and allow chosen care partners to contribute to decision making as much as possible are recommended (Koller 2006).
The negative impact of visitation restrictions places increased stress on patients/residents and families who are unable to provide or receive non-healthcare specific supportive care. Those with neurocognitive disorders or communication barriers are more significantly impacted.
Staff also report increased stress during family visitation restrictions due to the additional time required to take on a “familial role” for the patient/resident. These roles may include providing a supportive environment, social interaction, information sharing, and opportunities for play (Koller 2006a – pediatric hospital setting).
The search question did not specifically look at impact of visitation on infection rates; therefore, there is insufficient information to determine if visitation policies affect infection rates. However, a systematic review in pediatric hospital setting in Ontario found no connection between liberal visiting hours and increased SARS infection rates (Smith 2009).
When facilitating sibling visitation in the NICU, a pre-visit education process is recommended. Maternity settings may wish to consider a 'combination' policy, where the women's partners and/or significant other would have open visiting (all day), with restricted visiting for others. In other general hospital ward settings, open visiting with a 'quiet hour' is suggested (Smith 2009).
Tupper, S; Ward, H; Dalidowicz, M; Boden, C; Ellsworth, C; What are best practices for engaging family care providers during a pandemic? 2020 Apr 16; Document no.: LTC042401 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 22 p. (CEST rapid review report)
Tupper, S; Ward, H; Howell-Spooner, B; Dalidowicz, M; What are the impacts on the family unit from visitation restrictions during an infectious disease outbreak and how can we support the families? 2020 May 14; Document no.: LTC042403 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 38 p. (CEST rapid review report)
· There was no source of Canadian data (published or grey, federal or provincial) to address this question and differentiate between types of ventilation.
· There are several studies available assessing the proportions seen in other countries and a lot of theoretical literature about using non-invasive ventilation (NIV) as a first-line intervention to hopefully avoid intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV), for which there is weak evidence.
· Key studies include an analysis of 36 ICU patients in Wuhan in which 41.7% received NIV and 47.2% received MIV. Another large-scale study of 1,099 hospitalized patients reported IMV in 6.1% with no report of NIV.
Badea, A; Groot, G; Dalidowicz, M; Miller, L. In similar jurisdictions experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, what is the proportion of patients receiving non-invasive ventilation versus those receiving intermittent mandatory ventilation? 2020 May 22; Document no.: EOC052102 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 8 p. (CEST rapid review report)
· A burgeoning body of research exists about factors associated with in-hospital mortality among COVID-19 patients; however, focus on intensive care settings remains limited.
· The most frequent predictors of critical care mortality integrate age, physiologic markers and laboratory parameters in the most parsimonious models or prognostic scoring systems.
· Commonly used prognostic scoring systems such as MEWS, APACHE and SOFA provide crude mortality risk prediction that may be improved with machine learning algorithms that potentially offer more clinically relevant windows and opportunities for mortality risk prediction prior to deterioration.
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· Between centre variation is potentially an important determinant of critical care mortality that needs to be explored.
Williams-Roberts, H; Valiani, S; McLean, M; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. What are the predictors of mortality in hospitalized COVID-19 patients? 2020 Dec 9; Document no.: CC120402 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 33 p. (CEST rapid review report)
No studies directly evaluated the association between level of surge capacity and quality of care indicators for COVID-19 patients. However, in more broad studies, the findings suggest that mortality and other adverse events increase when the strain on the intensive care capacity increases.
A tiered staffing strategy is recommended to meet surge capacity needs in the ICU: High critical care nurse to patient ratios (1:1 or 1:2) are recommended to provide high quality patient care.
There is a lack of high-quality evidence to support ICU triage protocols tailored for patients with COVID-19. Nevertheless, the protocols must be flexible, adaptable according to the availability of local resources, and effective for inter-hospital patient transfer.
While the Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) guidelines (e.g., Saskatchewan’s Critical Care Resource Allocation Framework, published on September 2020) can be used to triage newly admitted COVID-19 patients requiring critical care, there is contradicting evidence about using the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score for ICU triage of patients with COVID-19.
The literature suggests the use of mathematical modeling to support capacity planning (e.g., very low, low, medium, and high intensity patient surge response)
To relieve pressure from ICUs, other types of units (e.g., Step Down Unit [SDU] or Surge Clinic) can be implemented.
Azizian, A; Valiani, S; Groot, G; Badea, A; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. At what level of surge capacity do quality of care indicators suffer? 2020 Dec 10; Document no.: CC120301 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 17 p. (CEST rapid review report)
Azizian, A; Valiani, S; Groot, G; Badea, A; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. At what level of surge capacity do quality of care indicators suffer? 2020 Dec 10; Document no.: CC120301 RR Table. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 17 p. (CEST table)
· There is little literature on the performance of triage frameworks. However, critiques of frameworks can help to inform the development of future protocols.
· It is ethically problematic to include age as a triage factor rather than the more nuanced factors of frailty and chronic comorbidities.
· The public should be included when creating triage protocols to create transparency and trust in the health system.
· Healthcare providers should be familiar with the ethical decisions that have been made in establishing the protocols. However, using a triage team to make decisions about resource allocation would alleviate moral burden from clinicians.
· Regular review of current guidelines, such as the use of SOFA scores, is recommended as knowledge about COVID-19 changes.
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· Patients should be regularly reassessed to allow for timely redistribution of critical resources.
Fick, F; Valiani, S; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. Does data exist on the performance of triage or resource allocation frameworks for COVID-19 and other pandemics? 2020 Dec 17; Document no.: CC120401 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 91 p. (CEST rapid review report)
Overall, data are insufficient to recommend for or against the use of ECMO in patients with COVID-19 and refractory hypoxemia.
The best available evidence points to an overall combined mortality rate of 46% among COVID-19 patients placed on ECMO (n=331). This rate is similar to the overall 40% mortality rate for extracorporeal life support in pulmonary failure. However, mortality rates among COVID-19 patients on ECMO range widely due to patient factors, site specific factors, and small sample sizes in available studies.
Recommendations for strategies and patient indications/contraindications are available to help guide centres intending to offer ECMO to COVID-19 patients.
Vanstone, J; Groot, G; Dalidowicz, M; Young, C. What are the outcomes of ECMO and COVID, particularly in small centers? 2021 Jan 13; Document no.: EOC011101 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 7 p. (CEST rapid review report)
There is limited research examining COVID-19 ICU patients undergoing prolonged (>14 days) mechanical ventilation
Rates of prolonged mechanical ventilation, defined as > 14 days, among COVID-19 ICU patients ranged from 16.7% to 33.3%.
Overall, studies suggest that length of ICU stay range from 11 to 31 days and length of hospital stay range from 25 to 51 days among COVID-19 patients who have undergone prolonged mechanical ventilation.
Following ICU discharge, patients are admitted to general wards, subacute nursing facilities, pneumological sub-intensive units, rehabilitation wards or long-term acute care.
Groot, G; McLean, M; Fox, L; Mueller, M. What is the final disposition of post-COVID patients who require chronic ventilation in the ICU? 2021 Feb 27; Document no.: CC011101 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 37 p. (CEST rapid review report)
· Tele-ICU services are provided either by existing staff within the network to smaller centers, or outsourced to larger networks or independent firms
· The impact of tele-ICU adoption can result in a decrease in ICU mortality as large as 32%
· The impact of tele-ICU adoption of length of stay is mixed, with some studies reporting a significant decrease, while others report a small, but statistically insignificant decrease
· The degree of impact of tele-ICU adoption is linked to several factors such as yearly admission rates, location (urban vs. rural) and level of authority given to the tele-ICU team leading to increased positive impacts.
Badea, A; Groot, G; Reeder, B; Young, C; Ellsworth, C; Howell-Spooner, B. How to deliver remote ICU care for COVID-19 patients to avoid/prevent transfer from smaller communities to tertiary care hospitals. 2021 Apr 6; Document no.: CC210301 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 13p. (CEST rapid review report)
The group designated in Saskatchewan as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) is a heterogenous clinical population with factors that impair their immune response to differing degrees.
Very Limited evidence is currently available to assess the immune response following vaccination is selected clinical populations; no evidence is available to assess vaccine efficacy or effectiveness in these populations. The clinical relevance of measured immune response with respect to protection from disease is still uncertain.
In considering the immune response of the CEV population, it is recommended that the absolute difference in immune response between 1 and 2 doses be considered, as it is possible some patient groups will have lowered protection regardless of vaccine strategy.
In terms of clinical subgroups:
oOrgan transplantation recipients on immunosuppressive medication: solid organ transplant recipients receiving anti-metabolite maintenance immunosuppression therapy were less likely to develop an antibody response to an mRNA vaccine, compared to those receiving other types of therapies (37% vs 63%). In a study of 242 kidney transplant recipients on immunosuppressive therapy only 10.8% became seropositive at 28 days after a single dose of mRNA vaccine.
oCancer: A study of 151 elderly patients with solid and hematological malignancies and 54 healthy controls who received one or two doses of BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) vaccine shows approximately 39% of solid cancer patients, 13% of hematological cancer patients, and 97% of healthy controls (p<0.0001) developed anti-S IgG 21 days following a single dose vaccine. However, response in solid cancer patients increased to 95% within 2 weeks of the second dose at 21 days.
oOther immunocompromising conditions (e.g., auto-immune disorders and therapy): some level of immunity is generated with vaccination; however, what this means clinically is unknown. It seems that ensuring the dosing is properly timed around biologic therapy is important.
Azizian, A; Lee, S; Shumilak, G; Groot, G; Reeder, B; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. What are the risks or benefits of extended intervals between doses of COVID-19 vaccines compared to recommended dosing in extremely vulnerable populations? 2021 Apr 20, Document no.: EOC210302 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. 15 p. (CEST rapid review report).
Azizian, A; Lee, S; Shumilak, G; Groot, G; Reeder, B; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. What are the risks or benefits of extended intervals between doses of COVID-19 vaccines compared to recommended dosing in extremely vulnerable populations? 2021 Apr 20, Document no.: EOC210302 RR Table. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. (CEST table).
The frequency of Long COVID symptoms varies widely across studies based on populations studied, duration of follow up and methods of assessment of symptoms.
It is estimated that 1 in 50 persons experience Long COVID symptoms after 12 weeks; however, higher estimates up to 80% have been reported in studies with a greater proportion of persons who were previously hospitalized. A recent study of a mixed cohort of 96 persons found that only 22.9% had no symptoms at 12 months post diagnosis.
A wide range of symptoms affecting multiple organ systems has been reported. For many persons symptoms improve over time while others experience persistent and/or new symptoms. Among studies with the longest duration of follow up, the most frequently reported symptoms included fatigue (up to 65%), dyspnea (up to 50%), headache (up to 45%), anosmia/ageusia (up to 25%), cognitive memory/concentration (up to 39.6%) and sleep disorders (up to 26%).
Few studies estimated the duration of symptoms with estimates ranging from 2.2% for 6 months and 27% for 7-9 months.
The mechanism(s) leading to Long COVID remain unclear but those experiencing post acute sequelae tend to be older, have a greater number of symptoms during the acute phase of illness or manifest specific symptoms and live with multiple comorbid conditions such as obesity.
The lack of consensus on a definition of Long COVID contributes to marked variations in robust prevalence estimates.
Williams-Roberts, H; Groot, G; Reeder, B; Howell-Spooner, B; Ellsworth, C. What is the incidence and duration of Long COVID cases? 2021 Jul 09, Document no.: EPM210601 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. 19 p. (CEST rapid review report).
Williams-Roberts, H; Groot, G; Reeder, B; Howell-Spooner, B; Ellsworth, C. What is the incidence and duration of Long COVID cases? 2021 Jul 09; Document no.: EPM210601 RR Table. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. (CEST table).
McLean, M; Williams-Roberts, H; Reeder, B; Howell-Spooner, B; Ellsworth, C. What are long COVID's demands on the healthcare system, and its severity of the illness? 2021 Jul 12, Document no.: EPM210602 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. (CEST table).
Long COVID-19 is likely to increase healthcare demands across the health system, including emergency departments, hospital admissions, primary care visits, specialists appointments, and home care and rehabilitation services.
The clinical care burden of long COVID-19 is the greatest in the first 3 months after testing and is likely to place the greatest demand on primary care services.
Patients with severe COVID-19 illness are more likely to place longer-term demands (4-6 months) on specialist care due to respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, metabolic, psychiatric and unspecified conditions.
McLean, M; Williams-Roberts, H; Reeder, B; Howell-Spooner, B; Ellsworth, C. What are long COVID's demands on the healthcare system, and its severity of the illness? 2021 Jul 12, Document no.: EPM210602 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. 23 p. (CEST rapid review report).
Ontario Immunization Advisory Committee recommended that if an 11 and 12-year-old child is inadvertently given a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that is not authorized for their age, the dose should be considered valid and the series complete.
National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that a booster dose of an authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to vulnerable population and > 50 years old, =6 months after completion of a primary COVID-19 vaccine series.
Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI) recommends COVID-19 booster vaccination with either Pfizer (Comirnaty) or Moderna (Spikevax), which are considered equally acceptable, for anyone aged 18 and older who completed their primary course of COVID-19 vaccination 5 or more months ago.
On December 8th, 2021 in a press release by Pfizer-BioNTech said that preliminary laboratory studies demonstrate that three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine neutralize the Omicron variant while two doses show significantly reduced neutralization titers. Data indicate that a third dose of BNT162b2 increases the neutralizing antibody titers by 25-fold compared to two doses.
December 3, 2021
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has granted provisional approval to Moderna for the use of its vaccine in children (two 10µg doses) and as booster shot for adults (one 30µg dose) in preparation for the recent emergence of the Omicron variant. This is in addition to Pfizer, which was also recently approved.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that a complete series with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (10 mcg) may be offered to children 5-11 years of age who do not have contraindications to the vaccine, with a dosing interval of at least 8 weeks between the first and second dose.
NNACI also recommends that children aged 5-11 years with a history of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection should be considered no longer infectious and symptoms of an acute illness should be completely resolved prior to vaccination.
Health Canada has authorized Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine (also known as Spikevax) to be used as a booster shot, using a half-dose of the vaccine.