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Ventilation Standards, PPE, and Regular Testing: How Infection Prevention Efforts are Curbing COVID-19 in a Californian Healthcare System

A recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases reveals how the implementation of specific measures such as ventilation standards of five clean-air changes per hour, frequent COVID-19 testing, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the widespread use of respirators effectively restricted the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmissions within a healthcare system in California from 2020 to 2022.

Researchers from the University of California utilized electronic health records and movement data from patients and staff to analyze viral genomes and social networking in order to estimate COVID-19 spread within the University of California–San Diego Health system. This analysis involved close to 13,000 viral genomes from over 35,000 infected patients and healthcare workers (HCWs).

During the course of the study, HCWs were required to adorn requisite PPE including N95 respirators, gowns, eye protection and gloves when delivering direct care to COVID-19 patients and wearing KN95 or N95 respirators across all hospital sections, including non-patient areas. Routine COVID-19 testing was also conducted among the HCWs. It was observed that despite some inconsistencies in compliance, these measures were effective in stemming and identifying cases of COVID-19 transmission within the healthcare facility.

Particularly, during the height of the Omicron wave, findings indicated that the majority of transmissions occurred outside of the healthcare environment, within households, community spaces or when universal masking was not maintained. Shared spaces within the healthcare system, like breakrooms or lobbies, also recorded more instances of viral transmissions. The study concludes by emphasizing the importance of expanding mitigation measures such as enhancing ventilation, air exchanges in all spaces and supporting single occupancy rooms, as part of infection control protocols in healthcare facilities for future respiratory virus pandemics.


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