Coronavirus Information

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Our Coronavirus Task Force meets as needed to review  data, update policies and implement best practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

St. James Parish COVID-19 Case Count

For the latest cases, deaths and test counts, visit the Louisiana Department of Health website.

Our Safe Care Promise

We are utilizing enhanced disinfection protocols throughout our facility and clinics. During high incidence rates, we also promote social distancing in our lobbies through added signage and screenings. Additionally, masking and monitoring policies are implemented as needed based on community transmission rates.

COVID Communications

We are making our best effort to communicate important updates and changes to our community on an ongoing basis. We will update this webpage and post necessary information on the Hospital’s Facebook Page. Additionally, we have created a COVID Info Line which summarizes the most important hospital updates related to COVID-19. Community members can call 225.258.2090 24/7 to listen to a brief recording.

COVID-19 Vaccine & Booster Information

We offer walk-in vaccines and boosters through our Urgent Care. If you are interested in receiving the vaccine or a booster, Click Here for more information.

Patient & Visitor Masking Policy – Updated 9.12.22

The hospital’s current COVID policy states that a mask mandate will be in effect when the transmission rate of COVID-19 is high in our community. The transmission rate of COVID-19 in St. James Parish is no longer considered high at this time; therefore, our temporary mask mandate has been lifted.

Masks are still encouraged for patients and visitors who are immunocompromised or those seeking care for respiratory illnesses such as a cold, the flu or COVID-19.

Visitation Policy – Updated 3.31.22

Due to the low prevalence of COVID-19 in our community we have reverted back to our normal visiting policy. We will continue to monitor data and update the visitation policy as needed to keep our patients and staff safe. Visitors and patients are required to wear a mask at this time.

Visiting hours are from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. Visitors should enter through the main hospital entrance. Visitors of inpatients should check-in at the nurses’ station. We encourage visitors to return home at night (if possible) to allow patients to rest.

COVID-19 Testing Options

St. James Parish Hospital offers both traditional and rapid COVID-19 testing for patients. Upon assessment your provider will determine which testing method is recommended. Resulting times vary by test and will be discussed during patient visits.

Option 1
Make an appointment or schedule a virtual visit with one of our Primary Care Physicians.

  • Lutcher Clinic 225.869.9890 or 225.869.3493
  • Vacherie Clinic 225.265.3013

Option 2
Walk in to our Urgent Care or schedule a virtual visit 225.258.2040.

  • St. James Urgent Care is located in the new entrance of the medical plaza next to the hospital.
  • St. James Urgent Care is open from 8am-8pm Monday –Friday and from 9am-5pm Saturday and Sunday.

Option 3
If you are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms such as difficulty breathing, our ER is open 24/7 and can also administer tests.

Outside Orders
Register in the hospital if you have COVID-19 test orders from an outside physician. 

Monoclonal Antibody Infusions

Based on guidance from the Louisiana Department of Health, we are no longer administering infusions at this time.

COVID-19 Rapid Testing Now Available in Urgent Care 8.28.20

St. James Urgent Care offers rapid testing for symptomatic patients. If you believe you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms, call 225.258.2040. Our provider will complete a thorough phone assessment and provide instructions for drive-through testing.

CEO Video Update on COVID-19 in St. James Parish 7.10.20

CLICK HERE to see a video update from St. James Parish Hospital CEO in response to the latest rise in local COVID-19 cases. CEO Mary Ellen Pratt urges the public to follow recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to take seriously the threat of overwhelming hospitals. In July, St. James Parish Hospital has saw its first increases in hospitalized COVID-19 patients since May.

Additionally, Mary Ellen shares “A Letter to the Public” from the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurse’s Association. The AHA, AMA and ANA urge communities to once again do their part in slowing the spread.

Pros & Cons of Different Tests – CEO Column by Mary Ellen Pratt 6.25.20

Testing is vital in our nation’s response to COVID-19. Through the pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued EUAs—Emergency Use Authorizations—for different types of COVID-19 testing. Diagnostic Testing—typically done through a swabbing of the nose or throat, can confirm an active infection and is typically done for symptomatic patients. Antibody (serological) testing checks the blood for antibodies that are created by the immune system when a virus is introduced. This blood test can be useful for asymptomatic patients who are concerned about an exposure to COVID-19. Antibody Tests are NOT intended to diagnose an active infection.

The two methods of COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests approved by the FDA include Molecular and Antigen Tests. Molecular Tests, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, can detect genetic information in the virus’ RNA. Antigen Tests detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus. Before being authorized, all COVID-19 tests are evaluated based on their sensitivity (ability to detect those positive for the virus) and specificity (ability to detect those negative for the virus). Sensitivity and specificity vary for different testing methods.

Each category of diagnostic test has its own unique role in the fight against the Coronavirus, but it is important to understand the differences between both the tests and their results.

Lab-based Molecular Testing
According to the FDA, “PCR tests can be incredibly accurate, but running the tests and analyzing the results can take time.” Lab-based molecular testing—like those used at St. James Parish Hospital—can take between 24 hours (state tests) and up to a week (commercial tests) to be confirmed. These tests are sent off to be analyzed by highly trained, licensed professionals utilizing state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. Though results are not instant, these tests are both highly sensitive and specific—meaning positive AND negative results are confirmed.

Antigen Testing
Antigen testing was designed for rapid detection of COVID-19. “One of the main advantages of an antigen test is the speed of the test, which can provide results in minutes. However, antigen tests may not detect all active infections, as they do not work the same way as a PCR test. Antigen tests are very specific for the virus, but are not as sensitive as molecular PCR tests,” reports the FDA.

According to the FDA, positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate; however, they have a higher chance of producing false negative results. Therefore, negative results do not rule out an infection.

Point-of-Care, Rapid Testing
Both molecular and antigen testing methods can be completed on-site at clinics, physicians’ offices and hospitals in an effort to produce results quickly. Through relaxed regulations, point-of-care, rapid testing can often be administered by any health care provider. The FDA has cautioned the public to understand that point-of-care antigen tests and some popular rapid, molecular tests must be used with the understanding that there is a higher chance of a false negative result.

Pros & Cons—Not all results are created equal
Lab-based molecular tests take longer to result due to the hands-on method of analysis. Results are not instant, but are “highly accurate” and according to the FDA do not need to be repeated. If you get a positive or negative result from a lab-based test like those currently administered through the hospital and its clinics, you can trust that result.

Antigen and/or other forms of rapid, point-of care tests conveniently offer results within minutes. Positive results are very accurate, but the FDA considers negative results “presumptive” and further states that if a negative result is “inconsistent with clinical signs and symptoms or necessary for patient management, patients should be tested with different authorized or cleared molecular tests.”

Testing Takeaways
Accuracy of any COVID-19 test will be higher if you wait until you are symptomatic to be tested. If you’ve been exposed to someone with the virus, but are not showing symptoms—recommendations have not changed. Social distancing is still key—stay home, self-isolate yourself, wear a mask and contact your physician as soon as you notice any new symptoms.

If you recently tested negative through a rapid, point-of-care COVID-19 test, talk to your provider about getting the test confirmed through a molecular test especially if you begin to notice new or worsening symptoms.

Classes and Events have resumed.

Visit our online calendar to view and register for upcoming events.

COVID-19 Inpatient Safety Procedures

Due to low-transmission rates, our Inpatient Unit is utilizing normal transmission-based precautions based on patient diagnoses.

We have created Infection Prevention Protocols to ensure they safety of our patients and staff as needed during high-transmission rates which involved treating COVID-19 patients in a special unit with additional safety measures in place to reduce the spread of the virus. In the event these processes are activated, patients can still expect safe, quality and compassionate care.

CLICK HERE to watch a video explaining Inpatient procedures that may be implemented when high-transmission is a cause for concern in our area.

Antibody Testing – CEO Column by Mary Ellen Pratt 5.26.20

COVID-19 was introduced to the world as the “Novel Coronavirus.” Described as novel, new and different, there is still much to learn and understand about COVID-19. New information and new tests are being researched and developed every day.

The CDC is currently evaluating the performance of commercially manufactured antibody tests in collaboration with other government agencies such as the FDA. Due to the state of emergency, these agencies are speeding up the approval process and testing methodologies are being approved for emergency use.

HOW is antibody testing different than diagnostic testing?

The purpose of antibody testing versus diagnostic testing is very different. Diagnostic testing—performed by a nasal or throat swabbing—is done to detect the presence of viral genetic material which helps determine if a person has a current infection. These tests are typically done when patients are symptomatic.

An antibody test is a blood test designed to detect antibodies (immunoglobulins such as IgG and IgM) produced by the immune system in response to an infection such as the coronavirus. Antibody tests are not used to diagnose COVID-19, but simply to indicate whether a person was exposed to the virus. Antibody tests aren’t required and don’t change treatment of COVID-19 or any other medical conditions. IgM and IgG antibody tests may either be ordered together (combination) or separately.

WHY should an antibody test be used?

COVID-19 Antibody testing was initially developed by the CDC for two reasons:
1. As a large scale study to evaluate the overall impact of the pandemic by estimating the total number of people who were infected with SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19
2. As a way to evaluate the performance and accuracy of diagnostic tests

Antibody tests also help to detect previous infections in people with little or few symptoms. Your physician, for example, may decide to order an antibody test if you are asymptomatic, but live with a family member with COVID-19 or if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

WHEN should a person get tested?

If you are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, but feel concerned because you have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, talk to your physician. Your physician can discuss symptoms to look for and determine if he or she believes a diagnostic or antibody test would be most beneficial.

Generally, antibodies being tested develop between 8 -14 days post exposure, so make sure to tell your doctor when a potential exposure could have happened. If you move forward with antibody testing, it is best to wait 10 days after initial symptoms or exposure.

WHAT do results mean?

If your antibody test is positive:

  • You have antibodies that likely resulted from an infection with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) or possibly a related coronavirus.
  • It’s unclear if those antibodies can provide protection (immunity) against getting infected again.
  • If you have no symptoms, you likely do not have an active infection and no additional follow-up is needed.
  • If you have symptoms and meet other guidelines for testing, you will need a diagnostic test (swab test) to confirm if you are positive for COVID-19. An antibody test cannot determine if you are currently sick with COVID-19.
  • It’s possible to test positive for antibodies even if you never had symptoms of COVID-19. This is known as an asymptomatic infection.

If you test negative:

  • You probably did not have a previous infection that has gotten better. However, you could have a current infection. It’s possible you could still get sick if you have been exposed to the virus recently, since antibodies don’t show up right away. This means you could still spread the virus.
  • Remember, some people may take longer to develop antibodies and some people may not develop antibodies.
  • But you have symptoms and meet other guidelines for testing, you need a diagnostic test (swab test) to confirm if you have COVID-19. An antibody test cannot determine if you are currently sick with COVID-19.

For now, there is still much to learn about what a positive COVID-19 antibody test really means, so the general consensus for the public is, “Don’t let your guard down.” It’s important to continue to protect yourself and others by following best practices such as social distancing, hand washing, disinfecting high-touch areas and wearing a mask in public.

With a physician’s order, St. James Parish Hospital is now offering antibody testing. We are committed to learning about new tests as they are approved and available.

Urgent Care is Open 5.4.20

St. James Urgent Care, located in the medical plaza next to the hospital, reopened during normal business hours on Monday, May 4th. As recommended by the CDC, patients are asked to wear a cloth mask covering their nose and mouth.

Call Urgent Care Ahead If You Can – 225.258.2040

Calling ahead allows us to better support social distancing recommendations and stagger patients, but walk-ins are still welcome. You may notice that we’ve also repositioned seating and added signage. We are committed to serving our community and keeping you safe.

Specialty Clinic Updates 4.27.20

Specialty Clinics at the hospital are undergoing a controlled reopening. We have worked with physicians to limit patients based on state guidance. We are also staggering visits. Screenings will be resumed at entrances and all patients will be required to wear a mask. Additionally, we have updated seating arrangements and added signage to facilitate social distancing in lobbies.

Do Not Delay Emergency Medical Care

Early studies of emergency rooms nationwide are showing a scary trend – that people are delaying emergency medical care in fear of COVID-19. Many of these studies are focusing on delayed medical care for heart attacks and strokes. Delaying medical care for patients undergoing these heart events and other emergencies can be fatal. CLICK HERE to learn more.

We want our community to know that our ER is still seeing patients and that we have taken numerous steps to ensure the safety of our patients and staff throughout this pandemic.

1. Early on we redesigned the flow of our ER to create separation between possible COVID patients and those with other emergency needs. Patients are assessed upon entry and separated based on symptoms.

2. Patients undergoing COVID symptoms are treated in one area and patients with other illnesses and injuries are routed to a traditional treatment space. The spaces are divided by doorways.

3. We have implemented additional measures to filter air in patient rooms within the ER.

4. Our ER Nurses’ Station and several sections of the ER were “closed off” utilizing visqueen and plexiglass partitions to further prevent cross contamination.

5. We’ve always used disinfectants capable of killing the coronavirus and many other pathogens, but we’ve trained additional staff members to understand proper usage of these products.

6. The ER lobby, including all high-touch areas and furniture, are disinfected regularly.

7. We’ve added environmental services staff members to terminally clean the ER rooms in COVID areas. A “terminal cleaning” is the highest level of cleaning and requires that every surface in the room be disinfected with a hospital-grade disinfectant.

8. We’ve invested in a cutting-edge sanitation fogger system – SteraMist – supported by the World Health Organization. SteraMist is a portable surface disinfection system that uses ionized hydrogen peroxide.

LIVE Virtual Parish Press Conference 4.7.20

St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish Hospital CEO Mary Ellen Pratt, Infection Control Coordinator Terrie Hymel, RN and Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. lead a virtual press conference via Facebook LIVE at 12:30pm on Tuesday, April 7th to update the community on the latest COVID-19 information in the parish.

Replay the video by visiting the Facebook Pages of St. James Parish Government and/or St. James Parish Hospital.


St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish Hospital CEO Mary Ellen Pratt, Superintendent of St. James Parish Schools Dr. Ed Cancienne and Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. lead a press conference to update the community on the latest COVID-19 information in the parish. CLICK HERE to view.

JOINT STATEMENT – Case Count 3.23.20 

As of March 23, 2020 at noon, the Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed 8 positive COVID-19 cases and 1 COVID-19 related death in St. James Parish.

COVID-19 patients are being treated in multiple parishes. Patients being treated at St. James Parish Hospital are in isolation. Those discharged home have been educated how to effectively quarantine. More information about best practices when you are in a household that has been affected by COVID-19 can be found on the hospital’s website

“Recent cases have indicated that St. James Parish now has an active community spread,” said Mary Ellen Pratt, St. James Parish Hospital CEO.

“The CDC considers a virus community spread if people have been affected in a certain area and some are unsure how or where they contracted the disease.”

As reported by the CDC, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person—typically 6 feet or closer to another person—coughs or sneezes.

“The spread of COVID-19 in our parish is not unexpected. We have been preparing for this moment and encouraging our residents to practice social distancing,” said Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish President.

“Our message is the same, but the urgency of that message is not. We now know that this highly infectious disease is spreading here. Please heed this warning and that of our Governor to stay home with your immediate family only.”

“Make no mistake, our actions today will impact our future.”

For the latest local communications related to COVID-19 visit this web page or the hospital and parish Facebook pages.

The State of Testing – CEO Column by Mary Ellen Pratt 3.21.20

The state and nation are continuously expanding testing resources and protocols in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It is extremely important for the public to understand the testing process, how healthcare providers are determining who should be tested at this time and what each of us can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

Testing—Then and Now
Testing for COVID-19 was initially conducted by the state and CDC. After a potential case was deemed necessary for testing by strict state guidelines, the healthcare provider would swab the patient and samples would be couriered to the state lab for testing. Upon a positive test—coined “presumptive positive” the CDC would then run its own quality control test to confirm the case. The process was updated so that state results are now final. Testing approved and conducted by the state takes on average at least two days to produce results.

Most recently, commercial testing—which can be ordered by physicians on a case-by-case ba-sis—became available. Providers follow the same process for swabbing patients and samples are couried to approved commercial labs. Patients that meet criteria for commercial testing take on average at least four days to get results.
Testing Criteria

Both state and commercial tests are limited and only recommended for patients meeting certain criteria. Since most patients contracting the Coronavirus experience only mild symptoms and can be effectively treated from home—reducing the risk of unnecessary exposure to others—tests are conserved for the most vulnerable in our population. Testing criteria is strict and typically ap-proved for patients at high risk of more serious symptoms and needing possible hospitalization.

The Priority for Testing
Testing is priority for the most vulnerable in our population. Most deaths have been in patients 60 or older and many of these patients have had underlying conditions. Examples of patients with the highest risk of complications due to COVID-19 include:

  • People over 60 (risk increases with age)
  • People living in nursing homes
  • People with other health conditions that impair lung or heart function or those with weak-ened immune systems

Call Ahead
If you are not in a high risk category and experiencing mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath we encourage you to call your physician’s office. Your doctor will conduct a phone visit to learn more about your symptoms, review your personal medical history and utilize CDC and state recommendations to determine if a test is recommended. For many patients—especially those whose treatments would not change due to test results, physicians can make recommendations and order medications as needed over the phone.

What can you do?
With or without a test, we have the power to slow the spread of COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Clean your hands often, avoid close contact and stay home if you are sick. According to education from the White House entitled “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” you are encouraged to:

  • Stay home if you feel sick and contact your medical provider
  • If your children are sick keep them home and contact your medical provider
  • If someone in your household tested positive for COVID-19, keep the entire household at home and contact your medical provider
  • If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people
  • If you have a serious underlying condition that can put you at increased risk, stay home and away from other people
  • Avoid social gatherings (mandated at 50 or less, recommended by the president at 10 or less)
  • Avoid discretionary travel
  • Do not visit nursing homes or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance
  • For the latest information on COVID-19 from St. James Parish Hospital, visit this web page often.

COVID-19 Video Conference 3.19.20

St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish Hospital CEO Mary Ellen Pratt, Director of Surgical Services and Infection Control Coordinator Terrie Hymel, RN, and Director of Medical Records and Privacy Officer Susan Duhon came together to address community concerns based on the recent report of a positive COVID-19 case in St. James Parish. CLICK HERE to view and/or download the video.

JOINT STATEMENT – Positive Case 3.18.20 

The Louisiana Department of Health has confirmed the first positive case of COVID-19 in
St. James Parish. The patient, falling into the 60+ age bracket, also had underlying health
conditions and passed away at St. James Parish Hospital.

The patient, diagnosed through a state-run test, was isolated and treated following both CDC recommendations and hospital-wide infection control protocols.

“Caring for patients with infectious diseases is something we do on a daily basis. We are
prepared and equipped,” said Mary Ellen Pratt, St. James Parish Hospital CEO.

“Additionally, we enacted our Emergency Management Team which is on call 24/7 to monitor new recommendations, update policies and assist staff as needed to ensure our patients are well cared for, our staff is kept safe and our community is protected.”

The hospital and the St. James Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness have been in constant contact to proactively monitor the situation and develop plans should a case be identified in the parish.

“We feel confident that the decisions made to-date have been in the best interest of our
community. Moving forward, we will make decisions based on the knowledge that a case has been identified locally,” said Pete Dufresne, St. James Parish President.

“We do still want to remind our community that social distancing and staying home are best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”

Call Ahead Notice to Patients

Per CDC guidelines, we are asking that any patients experiencing certain mild flu-like and respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath call your physician’s office or Urgent Care (225.258.2040) before coming in. We have implemented new policies and procedures to limit exposure.

Family Practice Clinics

It is our typical policy for patients of our family practice clinics to call ahead to schedule appointments. Additionally, we have implemented infection control procedures to intentionally stagger necessary visits as an added measure of protection.


Our hospital and team truly stand stronger thanks to the overwhelming support of our community and fellow businesses. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the well wishes, meals, supplies and monetary support to strengthen our hospital’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.  For more information or assistance coordinating a  donation, CLICK HERE.

Louisiana Department of Health Resources

Have questions or concerns and finding it hard to keep up with ever changing information?

Louisiana citizens can dial 211 24/7 to reach a live specialist to discuss available help and COVID-19 information. Citizens can also text the keyword “LACOVID” to 898-211 to have instant access to the most current information available in our state. CLICK HERE for more information.

Positive COVID-19 Tests Statewide

What is the number of tests being given by healthcare providers for COVID-19 around the state of Louisiana? What percentage have been positive? CLICK HERE for the most up-to-date information about cases in Louisiana.

Home Care Guidance for Patients Testing Positive or being Tested for COVID-19

The state department of health has provided information to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in homes and residential communities for patients who tested positive or are under investigation for  COVID-19, but deemed well enough for home treatment. CLICK HERE to review home care guidance.

CDC Resources & Education

What is COVID-19?

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.

There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practice external icon for naming of new human infectious diseases.

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.

CLICK HERE to visit the official COVID-19 CDC website.

Steps to Prevent Illness

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected  person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. CLICK HERE for more info.

  • Clean your hands often
  • Avoid close contact

Preparing Your Home 

Practice everyday preventive actions to help reduce your risk of getting sick and remind everyone in your home to do the same. The actions below are especially important for older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions. CLICK HERE for more information.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care (call ahead with symptoms).
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles).

CDC Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings
(especially in areas of significant community-based transmission)

CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. CLICK HERE to view additional tips and guidance.

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

This recommendation complements and does not replace the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, 30 Days to Slow the Spread, which remains the cornerstone of our national effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. CDC will make additional recommendations as the evidence regarding appropriate public health measures continues to develop.

WARNING – CDC Health Advisory 3.29.20: Nonprescription Chloroquine Phosphate

Chloroquine phosphate, when used without a prescription and supervision of a healthcare provider, can cause serious health consequences, including death. Clinicians and public health officials should discourage the public from misusing non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate (a chemical used in home aquariums). Clinicians should advise patients and the public that chloroquine, and the related compound hydroxychloroquine, should be used only under the supervision of a healthcare provider as prescribed medications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has become aware of two individuals in another state who ingested non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate, a chemical for aquarium use that is commercially available for purchase at stores and through internet websites. One of the individuals died shortly after arrival to the hospital. The second individual was critically ill with severe gastrointestinal symptoms and cardiac conduction abnormalities. Upon recovery, the surviving individual reported to the media that they ingested the product to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), after seeing information on the medical use of chloroquine on television. The product in their possession was in powder form inside a 2.2-lb. container and labeled “for Ornamental Fish Use Only.”CDC is also aware of unconfirmed media reports that these commercially available aquarium-use chemicals may be out of stock due to potential increased demand by the public.

At this time, there are no routinely available pharmaceutical products that are FDA-approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat specific medical conditions, such as malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Currently, these medications are being studied and evaluated as treatment for COVID-19; however, their efficacy to either prevent or treat this infection are unknown. In overdose situations or when used inappropriately, these medications can lead to severe toxicity, including cardiac rhythm disturbances such as prolonged QT, severe hypokalemia, cardiovascular collapse, seizures, coma, and death. Inappropriate uses include taking commercially available non-pharmaceutical preparations, taking chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine sulfate without a prescription, and taking additional doses not recommended by a healthcare provider. Chloroquine phosphate has a narrow therapeutic index—it can be toxic at levels not much higher than those used for treatment—which raises the risk of inadvertent overdose.

Recommendations for the Public
Do not ingest aquarium use products or any other chemicals that contain chloroquine phosphate. These chemicals are not intended for human consumption and can lead to serious health consequences, including death.
Medications like chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate should be taken only when prescribed by and under the supervision of your healthcare provider and always according to the instructions provided.
Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any unexpected symptoms after taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine by contacting your healthcare provider or your poison center (1.800.222.1222).

WARNING – CDC Health Advisory 7.7.20: Methanol-based Hand Sanitizers

Most commercially available alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs (ABHSR) contain either ethanol or isopropanol as active ingredients. On June 19, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers not to use any hand sanitizer manufactured by “Eskbiochem SA de CV” in Mexico, due to the potential presence of methanol, a “toxic alcohol”, as an active ingredient, which can cause blindness and/or death when absorbed through the skin or when swallowed. Since then, FDA has identified additional ABHSR products that contain methanol and is working with manufacturers and distributors on a voluntary recall of these products ( icon).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed with the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center that serious adverse health events occurred in seven patients who had purportedly ingested ABHSR in June 2020. Significant blood methanol concentrations were detected in all patients; four died, one critically ill patient recovered with loss of vision, and outcomes are pending on the remaining two critically ill patients. Two product samples were available for testing; preliminary results showed one product tested positive for methanol at the Scientific Laboratory Division, New Mexico Department of Health; the result on the second product is pending. CDC also confirmed with the Arizona Department of Health Services that the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center reported an additional six patients who purportedly ingested ABHSR in June 2020. Significant blood methanol concentrations were detected in these critically ill patients; two patients have been discharged from the hospital, one has permanent blindness, and four outcomes are pending.

Recommendations for the Public

  • Seek immediate medical attention if you have swallowed alcohol-based hand sanitizer or rub or are experiencing symptoms from repeated use of these products on your skin and contact your poison center (1-800-222-1222) for advice. Signs and symptoms include headache, blurred vision or blindness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination, and decreased alertness.
  • Do not swallow any alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs. These chemicals are not intended for human consumption and can lead to serious health issues, including death.
  • Only use alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs for their intended purpose – to clean hands.
  • Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs out of reach of children and supervise their use.
  • Check your hand sanitizer products against the “FDA’s testing and manufacturer’s recalls” list. If your product is on this list, stop using the product and dispose of it immediately in appropriate hazardous waste containers; do not flush or pour them down the drain.

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