· Overall, there is a lack of high quality evidence to support recommended pandemic preparedness strategies (checklist items) to prevent or mitigate respiratory infection outbreaks in LTC.
· In the absence of high-quality or mixed evidence to support strategies for pandemic preparedness, it is advisable to follow clinical practice guideline recommendations that have been based on expert opinion (key sources are identified in red). This is particularly the case for infection control interventions that are likely to have no negative impacts on LTC residents (e.g. hand hygiene, cough etiquette). Strategies that have a potential negative impact on LTC residents (e.g. visitor restrictions) must be handled with more flexibility and individual assessment to determine how infection control can be preserved while minimizing negative consequences for residents and families.
· Internationally recognized pandemic/outbreak preparedness checklists for LTC (e.g. CDC 2020, Buynder et al. 2017) share many similarities to the current SHA Annex R checklists.
· Consideration should be given to converting the checklist into a planner with accountabilities to demonstrate how each item is being addressed (similar to CDC 2020). Links can be embedded in the planner/checklist to more detailed information, such as the PPE burn calculator (CDC 2020), education/training materials (WHO 2020), and communication materials for families (CDC 2020, WHO 2020, Buynder et al. 2017).
· Consider the addition of specific detail to the SHA pandemic preparedness checklists on the date of the next pandemic plan/checklist review, contact names for local resource acquisition or assistance with staffing, tracking forms for dates of education/training with staff and residents, tracking of audits/observation of infection control practices, surge capacity planning items, and expanded items for communication (see attached recommendations from family caregivers of the Saskatchewan LTC Network).
· Discrepancies exist between reported (77-100%) and observed (25-63%) adherence to infection control practices, indicating a need for independent audits. Adherence rates improve with direct observation, frequent education reminders and prompts.
· Even when there is not an outbreak in a home, the pandemic response results in increased workload demands on staff due to infection control practices (e.g. PPE and hand hygiene), loss of family caregiver assistance with resident care, enhanced care needs of residents due to anxiety, increased communication with family caregivers and other members of the care team, monitoring and restricting resident movement in the home, enhanced cleaning, staff absenteeism, and education/training. Consideration is needed for a provincial process for evaluation of needs within individual homes, and allocation of additional human resources, disposable supplies, equipment, or funding to ensure that both infection control and usual care needs of residents are consistently met.
· Maintaining public confidence through communication is a defined infection control strategy. Communication strategies include individual communication between family members and staff, public communication strategies by individual facilities and provincially through dedicated pandemic information pertaining to LTC (e.g. dedicated LTC section on provincial websites).
An optimal surveillance strategy for COVID-19 infection in healthcare workers (HCWs) has yet to be determined.
Weekly screening of HCWs for infection through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing would reduce their contribution to SARS-CoV-2 transmission by approximately one quarter.
Any testing surveillance strategy should be in addition to other strategies already in place to identify symptomatic HCW.
Any strategy needs to take into consideration the availability of testing (i.e. feasibility) and the level of community transmission (i.e. the risk of asymptomatic HCWs entering the facility and spreading the virus).
HCWs could be categorized as high, medium, or low risk based upon their exposure to COVID-19 and the frequency of surveillance could be designed accordingly.
Newaz, S; Lee, S; Reeder, B; Groot, G; Young, C; Fox, L. What surveillance strategy is most effective for COVID-19 testing in healthcare workers? 2020 Nov 10; Document no.: EOC110401 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 26 p. (CEST rapid review report)
Vulnerable populations such as those experiencing homelessness are 20 times more likely to be hospitalised due to COVID-19, 10 times more likely to require intensive care for COVID-19 and 5 times more likely to die within 21 days of a positive test for COVID-19
Many organizations advocate for socially vulnerable populations to be considered priority populations due to their oftencomplex health needs and inability to fully execute best practices for infection prevention and control
Past experiences from Hepatitis vaccination (requiring 3 injections) and H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccination indicate that partnering with community organizations to provide vaccinations in shelters, community centers and other frequently accessed places along with education and access to known, trusted healthcare providers greatly increase the uptake of vaccination among socially vulnerable populations
Beyond sheltered populations experiencing homelessness, considerations for equitable vaccination programs for the general population should include plans for accessibility for all, including underserved geographic regions
Badea, A; Reeder, B; Hanson, L; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. What are the vaccination strategies for vulnerable populations? 2021 Mar 12; Document no.: PH030401 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2020. 33 p. (CEST rapid review report)