Coronavirus (COVID-19) – FAQs from our care staff (updated 08/06/20)

Published: Thursday 9th April 2020

Answers to frequently asked questions about working during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic from our care staff and head office employees.

This information will be frequently updated as government, public health and employment guidelines are continually changing. Please note that all employees of Agincare are classed as key workers.

What is the Test and Trace system?

The Test and Trace system has been set up to enable anyone who has had a specific “close contact” with somebody who tests positive to be notified. They are then expected to isolate themselves for 14 days, or for seven days from developing symptoms of COVID19.

A close contact of an infected person is someone they have spent 15 minutes or more within 2 metres of, or someone who has lived within the same household during a period of potential risk transmission.

However, in the overwhelming majority of cases staff will not need to self-isolate if they have been caring for a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has symptoms of COVID-19 while the staff member was wearing appropriate PPE.

You would be considered a close contact and need to self isolate if your PPE was breached, or if your close contact is with a person such as a colleague or anyone else who has tested positive for Covid-19 whether at work or not.

Can I give CPR?

Yes. Where a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 appears to have the absence of signs of life usual processes are to be followed if the person does not have a DNAR in place. But you must ensure that all infection prevention control procedures apply – using your PPE, including face mask, during CPR.

Because of the possibility that the person may have COVID-19, the UK Resuscitation Council advises:

  • Do not listen or feel for breathing by placing your ear and cheek close to the person’s mouth
  • If you are in any doubt about confirming cardiac arrest, the default position is to start chest compressions until help arrives
  • Make sure an ambulance is on its way. If COVID-19 is suspected, tell them when you call 999
  • Place a cloth/towel over the victims mouth and nose and attempt compression only CPR until the ambulance arrives. Put hands together in the middle of the chest and push hard and fast. Placing a cloth/towel over the persons’ mouth and nose will limit any coughing/spluttering when the person resumes breathing
  • After performing compression-only CPR, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand gel is a convenient alternative

If CPR is unsuccessful, infection control precautions continue to apply whilst deceased individuals remain in the care environment. This is due to the ongoing risk of infectious transmission via contact, although the risk is usually lower than for living patients.

Where the deceased was known or suspected to have been infected with COVID-19, inform the GP who comes to certify death, the coroner if required and the chosen funeral director prior to collection.

What is viral load?

People have asked about ‘viral load’ as it has been discussed in the news. This term describes the amount of virus people may be exposed to where caring for people with an infection but it is unclear whether people more exposed to those who have coronavirus are more likely to get infected.

Older people have been affected more by the COVID-19 virus than younger people and many older people who have died have had other, pre-existing conditions such as heart or lung disease or diabetes making it harder to fight the virus. We have however all read about the occasions where the virus has struck down younger, apparently fit individuals including health and social care staff.

Scientists are yet to understand fully how the virus behaves, but are studying the ‘viral load’ to see how the body is able to respond. Some researchers believe the amount of virus that infects a person may be significant – if a person gets a huge dose the outcome may be worse. Generally, whether you get severely ill or only get a mild cold with influenza for example can sometimes be determined by how much virus actually got into your body and started the infection off.

This is where the basic premise of social distancing comes from; standing further away from someone when they breathe or cough means fewer virus particles reach you, resulting in you getting less ill.

Health and social care staff who have to get very close to people to provide personal care cannot practice social distancing. The risk of ‘viral load’ is not as great as in acute hospital settings where constant/repeated exposure is more likely from the higher number of patients, density of patients in one area and in particular with the need for aerosol generating procedures.

Where you are required to support a person with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 you are to always to use effective PPE, particularly face masks and practice good hygiene with effective hand washing, safe removal and disposal of PPE and cleaning frequently touched surfaces around the client.

I am anxious about coronavirus – what help is available?

These unprecedented times have seen us all face changes to our daily lives and brought about anxieties for ourselves, our families and for the people we support.

It’s important to remember it is okay to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. It is equally important to share your concerns with others. Agincare are here to support you and you can always speak to your manager, senior managers or HR who will listen and offer advice and support.

It is important to stick to the facts – get your information from reliable sources such as gov.uk and the NHS website rather than social media and other websites that may contain misinformation. Do not share information unless from these sources without fact checking against credible sources.

You might also want to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, as this may make you feel more anxious.

Working in the care sector inevitably means that you will come across vulnerable people who have, or are suspected of having the virus. By following strict PPE guidance to protect yourself including use of masks and eye shields if required and by changing out of your uniform before leaving work; having a bath or shower on returning home you will provide yourself with the protection that is advised.

Can I get tested for COVID-19?

All essential workers can get tested whether they have symptoms or not. All Agincare managers have registered with the Employer Referral Portal and can refer you for an appointment.

Test kits, which come with clear instructions, are being sent to locations for people to self-test and send back. The test involves taking a swab from the nose and the back of the throat, which you can do yourself or ask someone else if you prefer. The results aim to be available within 48 hours.

Alternatively, you can book yourself a test. You are able to choose between a drive through test or a home test kit. If you choose a drive through test you will be sent a verification code which you will need to make an appointment.

Having a test done will give you peace of mind about your safety, that of your families and the people you care for.

What PPE do I need to wear in different situations?

Please see detailed guidance on our PPE page that is regularly updated with the latest guidance.

Who needs to self-isolate?

  • Staff who have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Staff who live with others who have family members with symptoms of COVID-19. Guidance has been provided that members of the family must self-isolate for a period of 14 days. See the latest stay at home guidance for households
  • The management of exposed staff guidance will let you know about when to isolate and how this affects people you live with, return to work criteria and what to do if you test positive but have no symptoms
  • If a member of staff is concerned they have COVID-19 they should follow PHE advice. If they are advised to self-isolate at home they should follow the stay at home guidance. If advised to self-isolate at home, they should not visit and care for individuals until safe to do so.
  • We have received a significant number of reports that care workers who have been in contact with someone showing symptoms of COVID-19 have been told to self-isolate. Jenny Harries, the Government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer has confirmed that when care and support staff find a service user who is showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature, or a new and continuous cough), they are not required to self-isolate, unless they themselves go on to develop symptoms. We strongly recommend anyone showing symptoms to get tested and to follow the ‘stay at home’ guidance.

Vulnerable employees who are required to shield

The government announced a list of people who are deemed vulnerable and they have been advised to self-isolate.

Employees who are shielding are to be treated the same as staff who are self-isolating due to signs of COVID-19 and should follow Government guidance on shielding.

The list includes those who are pregnant – guidance has now been updated to say this only applies to anyone in their 3rd trimester (28 weeks +). We appreciate that this is a difficult time for you, and discussion between your manager and HR can be had if required.

Please be advised this is only advice, should any staff wish to continue to work then you are welcome to do so, you will be asked to complete a risk assessment, which will be kept under review.

A further list of people was issued on 22 March 2020 and these are being advised to shield. They will be written to by the Department of Health advising of their needs, once they have received this letter then they are to self-isolate for a minimum period of 12 weeks. These include:

  • People who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • People with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)
  • People with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)

Guidance has been issued, that if you are living with someone who is shielding, you are not required to adopt the protective shielding measures as they are. You should do what you can to support those shielding and you should follow guidance on social distancing, you are not required to stay away from work.

Shielding vulnerable people

If the person being cared for and their worker can remain at a safe protected distance from symptomatic people in the household or care environment, then care can be provided without additional precaution. This would apply, for example, where symptomatic people can remain in their own room, are using separate bathroom facilities and are observing robust isolation procedures, staying 2 metres away from others

Where this is not possible – and this will vary on a case-by-case basis – the same procedures should be adopted as if the person being cared for did have symptoms of COVID-19 (see above). Care should continue to be taken to limit contact with others that do have symptoms.

Where a person with significant loss cognitive ability who is still mobile and who does not understand the risks to self or others and the need for self-isolation, speak with the local mental capacity/DoLS teams regarding possible restriction on movements. They are unlikely to authorise a DoLS in all cases but their advice should be followed

What will a staff member be paid if they are required to self-isolate?

Staff who are required to self-isolate will be paid SSP if they qualify, they do not need to attend a GP and they no longer have to delay for the usual 3 waiting days before claiming. A certificate can be completed and sent to HR & Payroll.

What happens if an employee doesn’t qualify for Sick Pay?

Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than an average of £118 per week are able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

What if an employee needs time off work to look after someone?

Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations related to coronavirus (COVID-19). For example:

  • If they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
  • To help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital
  • If you decide to isolate with a family member who is shielding or in the vulnerable group, contrary to current guidance.

This is unpaid and there is no current guidance from the government to change this.

Furloughed Worker or 80% grant (if you are unable to work due to self-isolation this doesn’t class as a furloughed worker, therefore they are not entitled to the 80% payment by government)

The government have announced that they will pay employers 80% of an employee’s wage if they are not able to provide them with work during the virus outbreak.  This is causing confusion as some employees believe they can claim this.  This is not the case, the employee needs to be Furloughed which means they are still employed but as employers we can’t offer them any work, not just a reduction in work

Obviously, this is not something which we currently have an issues with, for example if an assessor is not being booked for assessment then work can be done on care plan reviews/ or delivering much needed care work.

What if vulnerable employees still want to work?

As their manager, you should discuss this with them and look into the reasons behind this, and try and encourage them to follow the guidance.  If they still wish to work, then a full health risk assessment must be completed and both you and the employee sign this.  It is suggested that this is routinely reviewed and if the employee changes their mind then they must be able to self-isolate at once.

We appreciate that this is a difficult time for you, and discussion between your manager and HR can be had if required.

If people are unable to work due to self-isolation this doesn’t class then as a furloughed worker, therefore they aren’t entitled to the 80% payment by the government

We realise this is a challenging time and hope that this guidance offers some support to you. We will continue to update you as soon as we can and advise that you talk through any individual cases with your line manager and HR.

View PPE – what care staff need to know

View all our latest news, guidance and FAQs on coronavirus.

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