COVID-19 Outbreak FAQ

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Are the elastomeric respirators disposable?
No. We have issued them specifically because they are reusable. They should not be thrown away.
What if I lose my elastomeric respirator?
Make an appointment to receive a new one by visiting https://vbems.com/fit-test. Please mark your respirator conspicuously with a permanent marker so if it gets misplaced, it can be returned to you.
Can we post pictures of our crew?
Yes, but be mindful of the Department and City policies. If you post pictures, be sure individuals are practicing social distancing! We must show we are setting the example. If you post pictures of members wearing PPE, please be sure it cannot be interpreted as you are wasting that precious resource.
Is the Self-Monitoring form really needed at the beginning and end of my shift?
Absolutely. The form takes less than a minute to complete and submit. It is encrypted and sent to the Department’s Safety Officer. It is important for tracking each of our members, including office staff. The data collection is reported to the Health Department and used by the Operations Division to monitor our members.
Do I need to complete the Self-Monitoring form if I feel fine?
Yes! It is important to complete and submit the form at the start and end of each shift.
I felt fine coming to duty, but now I’m feeling a little sick. What do I do?
Notify EMS 1, 2, or 3 immediately.
I don’t feel well, but I’m scheduled for duty. What do I do?
The health and wellness of our members is our primary concern. Don’t feel embarrassed, or ashamed, if you aren’t feeling well and are scheduled for duty. Call EMS-01 or EMS-02 as soon as possible before your schedule shift to let them know.
How do I Don and Doff PPE?
It can be challenging to Don and Doff PPE, especially when it comes to properly and safely taking it off. There is a great short video created by our volunteers posted on the homepage of our website. It shows how to correctly Don and Doff PPE. It only takes a few minutes to watch.
There are too many e-mails coming out. Why can’t there be one place to find information?
Yes, there are many e-mails and a lot of information since the COVID-19 crisis is constantly changing. It is necessary to provide our members with accurate information for their safety, as well as the safety of the public. There are links located in a red box on our website’s homepage. This is where critical information and instructions are being updated. Please stay informed for your safety and for your crew’s safety. The Department would rather be criticized for sending out too much important safety messages, rather than not enough. If you have any suggestions for a more efficient and effective way for the Department to distribute information, please let us know!
My certification has expired! What should I do?
First, don’t panic! Contact the EMS Training Center by e-mail at emstrain@vbgov.com for more information. Many agencies have extended expiration dates with some limitations.
Why do I need to wear a surgical/procedural mask at all times?
It is now a Departmental general order. It offers protection for others and offers some protection from others. Practice social distancing even while wearing a mask. Use ONE mask for your entire shift since resources are limited. Please refer to the guidance posted regarding wearing masks.
Is it permitted to wear a decorative fabric “mask covering” over a surgical mask if it the surgical mask is worn appropriately and by the policy/SOG?
At this time, yes. As long as a surgical mask is worn under it and the decorative “mask cover” washed between shifts. Like any outerwear, it can accumulate contaminants.
Should we get to the point where N95 masks are in short supply, will providers be allowed to use their own personal PPE, including half face respirators?
If you’re using your personal fitted respirator (filtered facepiece, half-face, or gas mask) in accordance with the way it was fit tested to you, and you have submitted a copy of your fit testing documentation to the Safety and Regulations Division Chief, you may do so even if the Department has made a filtered facepiece respirator (N95, etc.) available to you. For example, if a member uses a personal fitted gas mask on top of a beard, that is clearly not in accordance with how the mask was fitted. The same qualification would apply if the dimensions of your face have changed since you were fitted. If we’re unable to provide you with any kind of respirator, you may use your own even without submitting fit test documentation, or without it even being fit tested. In all cases, your personal respirator must not violate existing personal appearance policies. For instance, it may not be decorated with scary symbols, such as a biohazard icon or a skull-and-crossbones. We can only restock the make and model of filters and cartridges that we are issuing on the respirators we are issuing.
Can Simple Green be used as a disinfectant for COVID-19?
NO. According to the manufacturer, Simple Green is not a disinfectant. It is a cleaner. Only EPA approved disinfectants should be used, as labeled. Approved disinfectants can be found at https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2.
Where can I find the latest COVID-19 information?
Go to our website at https://www.vbems.com and view the information in the red banner for the latest service specific information and direction. Additionally, the NIH NIEHS has put together a free training program called “Welcome to the NIEHS COVID-19 Response Training” at https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/covid19worker/ .
We are sourcing our information from official outlets, including http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus, https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus, https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus, and https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 .
What is SARS2? I thought this was a coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can be contracted by humans and animals. There are three types of coronaviruses humans can get from animals: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and this new Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS2 or SARS-CoV-2). SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). CoV is an abbreviation for CoronaVirus and COVID-19 is a moniker for COronaVirus Infectious Disease identified in 2019.
If I have signs/symptoms of COVID-19, can I get tested?
The CDC, VDH, and EMS have made testing of first responders and healthcare providers a priority. If you are sick – STAY HOME. Notify an EMS supervisor if you need to miss your duty. Contact an EMS supervisor if you need to be tested for COVID-19. You must have symptoms to be tested. Remember: There is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, as of now.
I am not receiving any information from the Department. Why?
The first formal communication about COVID-19 was issued by Chief Lipscomb in January of this year. Since, there have been regular updates, information, and direction. We understand some members do not check their e-mail. It is important to change this habit for your safety and for the safety of our partners, patients, and families. We have placed the latest, and most vital, information on our website at https://www.vbems.com. View the information in the red banner for the latest service specific information and direction. Chief Lewis knows how much you like his videos and he continues to place updates there.
The information is changing too often, and it is hard to keep track of. Can you make this simpler?
The information in the red banner on our website https://www.vbems.com provides the latest service specific information and direction as succinctly and simply as possible.
We are trying our best to provide you with the most current, accurate, and relevant tools to keep you, your crew, your patients, and your families safe. There is not a playbook on this specific virus, and we are always learning new things. You have a team of dedicated EMS staff constantly in contact with Emergency Management, the Virginia Department of Health, Sentara, EMS, healthcare system administrators in hard hit areas, and other experts sharing information and resources. We are following our plans, critically thinking and evaluating data, publications, models, projections, and news reports. We are boiling this down, daily, into policies, guidance, and direction to the field supervisors. This way they are able to assist you in every way to keep you safe so you may continue to provide excellent services. They are providing you with the information through e-mails, MDT messages, and EMR messages, as well as on our website.

Also see these COVID-19 FAQs from other credible sources: