Per Title 17 Section 2500 of the California Code of Regulations, cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) must be reported immediately to the local health officer for the jurisdiction where the patient resides. Your reports will enable us to provide you with timely data to inform your clinical practice and guide public health interventions.
Please review the protocol for referral to housing accommodation below and follow the guidelines for submission of the housing referral form.
This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we will update this page as new information comes in. For further details, including interim infection prevention recommendations, as well as the most updated information, visit the CDC novel coronavirus webpage for providers: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp
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Guidelines for Reuse of N95 Respirators
At this time, the available supply of N95 respirators is limited nationwide, and there is a need to maximize the lifespan of each N95 mask. Existing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidelines recommend a combination of approaches to conserve supplies while safeguarding healthcare workers and first responders in such circumstances.
Safe N95 reuse is affected by a number of variables that impact respirator function and contamination over time. While there is no way to determine the exact number of safe reusages of an N95 mask, the general rule is to use the mask until it is obviously damaged, soiled, wet, or becomes hard to breathe through. Particularly during this time of national shortage, N95 masks are not intended to be used once and then disposed. Future requests for N95 masks will not be able to be fulfilled unless all individuals and organizations reuse their N95 masks multiple times.
The following is a partial list of considerations to help preserve the masks for reuse:
- Hang used respirators in a designated storage area or keep them in a clean, breathable container such as a paper bag between uses. To minimize potential cross-contamination, store respirators so that they do not touch each other and the person using the respirator is clearly identified. Storage containers should be disposed of or cleaned regularly.
- Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching or adjusting the respirator. Only touch the respirator if adjustment is necessary for comfort or to maintain fit.
- Avoid touching the inside of the respirator. If inadvertent contact is made with the inside of the respirator, discard the respirator and perform hand hygiene as described above.
Please refer to the CDC website for a full set of guidelines (see https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hcwcontrols/recommendedguidanceextuse.html.)
These recommendations are not intended to replace your organization’s policies regarding personal protective equipment. They are intended to supplement those policies to help reduce demand of existing limited supplies.
Click here for a downloadable version of Guidance for Reuse of N95 Respirators
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Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions for Providers
Updated March 29, 2020
Note: These FAQs are updated often. Please check back for updates and clarifications.
Do patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have to be cleared by the Public Health Department or re-tested at the end of their isolation period before they can stop isolating?
No. Healthcare providers and patients should follow guidance on the Confirmed Case Information Sheet. Once a patient’s isolation period is over, the patient may return to normal life and work. Providers, schools, or employers should not require repeat testing after this period to avoid a potential false positive result as many patients may have a positive result for days to weeks, even though they are no longer contagious.
What should I tell patients who are feeling ill?
If a patient is feeling ill, they should be evaluated by their doctor, a nurse hotline, or an urgent care center before going to the hospital. If they don't have a doctor, they can call a local community health center for assistance. You can find a health center here: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/. A patient should not go to the emergency room of a hospital unless they are having an actual emergency. However, patient should still seek medical advice if they are ill.
Please do not direct patients to call the Public Health Department. Public health will simply tell patients to call their doctor.
How can healthcare providers make a request for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
Healthcare providers who need PPE can request it through the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) by sending the 213 Resource Request (213RR) form:
- Via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org; or
- Online through WebEOC (requires access).
Do not call the Public Health Department for PPE, as you will be routed to the above process.
What COVID-19 testing is currently available through the Santa Clara County Public Health Laboratory (PHL)?
The PHL can test a limited number of samples each day. PHL’s current focus is to ensure testing for hospitalized patients and people who live or work in high risk settings, such as long-term care facilities, healthcare professionals, and first responders. For more information on the PHL’s testing capacity and general testing status in Santa Clara County, see COVID-19 Testing.
Symptomatic healthcare workers (HCWs) who seek testing should first do so through their own healthcare providers or employee/occupational health programs. If testing is not available through these channels and testing of the HCW is a high priority, the HCW’s employee/occupational health professional can call the Public Health Department to discuss possible testing through the PHL [call 408 885-4214, ext. 3; ask for Provider Branch].
Who is responsible for notifying patients about their COVID-19 test results?
The physicians who order COVID-19 tests are responsible for notifying their patients of their test results, regardless of where the tests are conducted.
How should healthcare workers be screened for symptoms and when should they be tested?
Each healthcare services’ employee/occupational health program should have procedures in place addressing these questions, and employees should follow their employers’ procedures. The Public Health Department’s guidance on screening and testing healthcare workers can be found here: Screening Algorithm for Healthcare Personnel.
For the purposes of isolation and contact tracing, should the date of symptom onset be based only on fever or cough?
COVID-19 illness can begin with symptoms other than fever or cough, such as chills, sore throat, shortness of breath, headache, myalgias, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or change in mental status. Use the earliest date of these symptoms for date of symptom onset.
For how long should hospitalized patients remain isolated in the hospital? Do patients need to have a negative COVID-19 test result in order to discontinue isolation?
The Public Health Department's Interim Guidance for Isolation Periods state that hospitalized patients should remain isolated (either in a single room or cohorted with other COVID-19 patients) under transmission-based precautions for 14 days after the date of their positive test result* OR until 7 days after fever is gone and other symptoms are improving, whichever is longer. Alternatively, a single negative COVID-19 test performed after symptoms have improved can be used instead, but we do not recommend repeat testing of positive patients because many patients have a positive result for days to weeks, even though they are no longer contagious.
*Alternatively, providers may use date of specimen collection.
Why are the Public Health Department’s guidelines on duration of isolation different from that of other jurisdictions or CDC?
Our guidelines are based on the current local situation. Some of our guidelines may be stricter and more protective than guidelines from other jurisdictions. The most prominent example is our Interim Guidance for Isolation Periods. The CDC has always stated that its COVID-19 guidance may be adapted by local health departments to respond to rapidly changing local circumstances. Our guidance may change in the future as our local situation evolves.
I’m a medical provider – am I allowed to remain open for non-essential services?
Yes, if you are a medical provider your office is encouraged to remain open. Under the Order, all medical services, including routine and preventive care, are considered essential. This includes, but is not limited to, mental health services, immunizations, well-woman exams, dental cleanings, allergy shots, eye exams, physical therapy, and surgeries. Preventive care should not be deferred. Many visits involve exams or procedures that must be done in person, but practitioners are encouraged to conduct appointments remotely via phone or telemedicine when it is appropriate and feasible to do so.
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Fact Sheets on PCR Testing for COVID-19
The County of Santa Clara Public Health Laboratory is able to offer PCR-based testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 when approved by the Public Health Department. See below for further information about the test and its characteristics.