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Protecting Older Australians: COVID-19 Update 16 July 2021

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COVID-19 vaccines – Is it true?

With frequent new COVID-19 vaccine developments, it’s normal for people to have questions or concerns, and possibly feel unsure about getting a vaccine. To support you and those around you to make an informed decision, you can access accurate, evidence-based information on the Department of Health’s website.

COVID-19 vaccines - Is it true? Provides clear information addressing common questions and concerns, and separating misinformation from the facts. This resource includes evidence-based responses to a broad range of questions including:

Answers to common questions on COVID-19 vaccines are available in 63 languages.

There is also a range of information about COVID-19 vaccines available in English and translated in 63 languages.

Another excellent resource is the Department of Home Affair’s website which features Misinformation and truths about Coronavirus (COVID-19) providing the facts to common misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccination.

fact sheet is also available on misinformation and the facts on COVID-19.

 

New COVID-19 vaccination reporting requirements

Changes to residential aged care reporting
Starting on 27 July 2021, it will become a formal requirement for residential aged care providers to report weekly on the COVID-19 vaccination status of residents through the online My Aged Care provider portal. This is in addition to the current reporting on workforce vaccination.

The tool records de-identified data on the:

  • total number of residents and workers at each aged care service and, of those,
  • the number of residents and workers who have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
  • the number of residents and workers who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Find out more:

NEW reporting requirements for home care providers
Starting on 27 July 2021, in-home aged care providers must also report weekly through the online My Aged Care provider portal on the COVID-19 vaccination status of their workforce, including contractors and volunteers. This includes providers of Home Care Packages and Short-Term Restorative Care services in an in-home or community setting.

Providers will be required to report de-identified data on the:

  • total number of workers at each aged care service and, of those,
  • the number of workers who have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
  • the number of workers who have received all required doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Find out more:

For CHSP and NATSIFAC service providers
Record keeping and reporting on workforce COVID-19 vaccination is being deferred for Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program (NATSIFAC) services in home and community settings.

This will ensure they can first receive guidance and support from the Department of Health on the systems, processes and capacity-building needed to meet the new requirements. Further information will soon be communicated to CHSP and NATSIFAC providers.

 

NSW Health - use of P2/N95 respirators and surgical face masks

The primary mechanism of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is via infected respiratory droplets. SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the respiratory tract and the highest viral load is just prior to symptom onset or in the first 5 days of symptoms. Infection occurs either by direct or indirect contact with respiratory droplets. Most transmission occurs through close contact with respiratory droplets of varying size.

Pathogens mainly transmitted by close contact can sometimes also be spread via airborne transmission under special circumstances, but these transmission events are uncommon. COVID-19 and airborne transmission is opportunistic.

In response, the following PPE precautions should be taken based on the circumstances:

Contact and Droplet Precautions (surgical mask and eye protection):

  • Patients with acute respiratory infection (ARI) or recent onset of fever without an alternative clinical focus with NO epidemiological link. (COVID-19 screening and testing for other respiratory viruses is recommended).

Contact, Droplet and Airborne Precautions (P2/N95 respirator and eye protection)

  • Confirmed COVID-19 cases
  • Suspected cases (a person who meets clinical AND epidemiological criteria or a person identified as a close contact by the NSW Public Health Unit, regardless of symptoms)
  • P2/N95 respirators and surgical face masks:

    1. All healthcare workers should follow standard and transmission-based precautions as described in the Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare (2021).
    2. Healthcare workers who wear P2/N95 respirators should complete fit testing before first use, and perform a fit (seal) check properly each time they are used. In situations where fit testing has not yet been carried out, and a P2/N95 respirator is recommended for use, a fit-checked P2/N95 respirator is preferred to a surgical mask.
    3. All healthcare workers providing direct patient care or working within the patient/client/resident zone[1] for individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should have access to P2/N95 respirators.
    4. For healthcare workers providing direct patient care or working within the patient/client /resident zone for individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, the choice between P2/N95 respirator or surgical mask should be based on an assessment of risk of transmission.
    5. Assessment of risk of transmission of COVID-19 to healthcare workers should include consideration of:
      • the individual patient/client/resident’s pre-existing likelihood of COVID-19,
      • patient/client/resident factors,
      • physical location of care.

Where assistance is required with fit testing, please consult with your identified Infection Prevention and Control lead in the first instance. Additional support can be provided through the local health district.

Please see NSW CEC resources for Respiratory Protection for more information.

Please also continue to review the Chief Health’s Officer’s advice at COVID-19: Advice for aged care services - COVID-19 (Coronavirus) (nsw.gov.au).

[1] For example, being within the same room as a resident in a residential care facility or an individual in quarantine in a managed quarantine facility.

 

Victoria - Restrictions on visitors to RACFs

For the state of Victoria, restrictions are in place from 11:59pm on Thursday 15 July 2021.

  • No visitors are permitted at residential aged care facilities, unless an exception applies. Exceptions apply in limited circumstances.
  • Visitors to care facilities will only be permitted in end-of-life settings or for a specified purpose.
  • Where visiting is permitted, only two visitors at a time with no time limits
  • During the circuit-breaker restrictions, non-essential contractors are not allowed to enter care facilities
  • All workers and visitors must check into the facility using the Service Victoria check-in app.

See further details in the guidance for residential aged care facilities and visit the Victorian Department of Health website for more information.

 

Queensland CHO Update

The Qld Premier and Chief Health Officer advised that existing restrictions in south-east Queensland will now continue until 6am Friday 23 July 2021.

For residential aged care this means general visitors are not permitted, residents may only leave in certain circumstances, and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with the Moderate Risk guidance.

As at 6am Friday 16 July 2021, the Townsville and Palm Island LGAs are no longer declared as Restricted Areas, and visitors are permitted. These LGAs are considered in the low risk category for the use of PPE.

Further details on the use of PPE in each of these regions is available on the Queensland Health website.

 

ACT Health Update

The ACT CHO has issued an updated alert on 14 July 2021 regarding the COVID-19 situation.

In summary, new restrictions were introduced on 9 July, requiring anyone leaving Greater Sydney (including Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour LGAs) to quarantine for 14 days. Stay-at-home requirements for anyone who left Sydney before then and enter the ACT still apply. Previously listed areas in Northern Territory and Western Australia have been removed from the geographical areas of risk. A geographical area of risk is generally kept in place for 14 days after the last episode of community exposure.

Anyone entering an aged care facility to work or visit should wear a mask while in indoor areas of the premises. This does not apply to residents.

The COVID-19 situation can change rapidly and as such, advice for high-risk settings is subject to change regularly. ACT Health will continue to keep you updated through these Chief Health Officer alerts.

 

In the event of an outbreak

In the event of an outbreak in aged care, Australian Government Department of Health Case Managers would be allocated to any New South Wales Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF) experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. The Case Managers will work with the RACF to ensure:

  • Workforce capacity;
  • Application of infection prevention and control measures;
  • Adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Waste procedures are in place, and
  • Communication with family and friends associated with the RACF residents.

Residential aged care providers need to remain alert and prepared for a potential outbreak of COVID-19 at their facilities. The department encourages you to be familiar with the measures you should have in place at all times to prevent and prepare for an outbreak and how to identify and manage an outbreak in residential aged care.

Please visit our website for information and resources to assist in preparing and managing a COVID-19 outbreak, including what to do in the first 24 hours of an outbreak in a residential aged care facility.

Who to notify if you have a confirmed case

You must contact your state or territory public health unit immediately to report positive COVID-19 cases in either staff members or care recipients.

  • Australian Capital Territory – (02) 5124 9213 After Hours: 02 9962 4155
  • New South Wales – 1300 066 055
  • Northern Territory – 08 8922 8044
  • Queensland – 13 432 584 (13 HEALTH)
  • South Australia – 1300 232 272
  • Tasmania – 1800 671 738
  • Victoria – 1300 651 160
  • Western Australia – 08 9222 8588 or 08 6373 2222 (if confirmed COVID-19)

All aged care providers should also immediately notify positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test results by email to the Australian Department of Health: .

 

PPE

Aged care providers are asked to ensure they have a sufficient supply of PPE, to use their own supply of PPE first and to request extra supply for emergency purposes as and when needed.

The Commonwealth is prioritising requests for PPE from the National Medical Stockpile to aged care services that are most in need. The deployment of PPE is only where commercial supply is unavailable, and where there is a government direction regarding COVID-19 PPE requirements or demonstrated clinical need.

If you urgently need PPE and cannot source it, please submit an online application. The application will need to be completed for your request to be considered.

 

Support for senior Australians

In addition to strengthening protection for residents and supporting aged care providers and workers, the Australian Government continues to support all senior Australians receiving Commonwealth-funded supports, including through wellbeing checks, grief and trauma counselling, support for families, and advocacy services through the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN).

A dedicated, free call support line (1800 171 866) continues to operate, supporting the mental health of senior Australians and their families impacted by COVID-19.

The My Aged Care Contact Centre is also equipped to respond to the needs of senior Australians, including through emergency care packages and food parcel delivery if required.



Source:
Unknown Author, 2021, Department of Health (https://www.health.gov.au/)

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