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Operations Safety Bulletin
05-2020 Novel Coronavirus Guidance to Canadian Coast Guard Operational Personnel

Original: 2020-02-13 Revised: n/a Approved by Julie Gascon, Director General, Operations, on February 13, 2020.

Posting instructions:

This notice is to be posted in a place accessible to all employees for a period of 6 months.

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Target audience

All Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) operational personnel who:

Purpose

This safety bulletin provides more guidance relating to the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), previously known as 2019-nCoV. This guidance is based on material from federal and provincial health agencies and PRAXES Medical Group.

Background

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is working with the provinces and territories, and international partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), to actively monitor the outbreak of a respiratory illness linked to a novel coronavirus. While the WHO declared a “global health emergency” regarding coronavirus on January 30, 2020, PHAC has assessed the risk to Canadians as low. Most cases have been reported in Wuhan, China but cases have also been reported in other cities in China and outside of China, including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, United States and Canada. The cases reported in the United States and Canada involve individuals who have recently returned from travel to Wuhan or the Hubei province.

The Marine Security Operations Centres (MSOCs) are working with other partners to closely monitor vessels for potential COVID-19.

Guidance

Initial screening of foreign vessels

In the conduct of operational functions under the CCG mandate (such as Maritime Search and Rescue [SAR] and Environmental Response [ER]), CCG staff within Regional Operations Centres (ROCs), Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCCs) and Maritime Rescue Sub-Centres (MRSCs), must make every effort to make first contact with suspect foreign vessels with crew who may have been exposed to the COVID-19.

Where possible, this is done prior to operational personnel receiving work assignments which could involve CCG staff coming into close contact with infected crew members.

ROC, JRCC, and MRSC officers must make contact with the master of vessels to determine if:

The results of the screening should be provided to operational personnel conducting SAR or ER functions as part of their work assignment. If the initial screening indicates an elevated risk for exposure to COVID-19, the tasking officer should:

  1. advise operational personnel to refrain from boarding the vessel until a more thorough assessment can be made by competent officials or to continue with the work assignment when there is a risk of loss of life or serious injury
  2. inform the regional MSOC by most expeditious means

Initial screening by operational personnel (if required)

If ROC, JRCC or MRSC staff are unable to complete the initial screening, or if the operational personnel have concerns regarding the potential exposure to COVID-19, operational personnel should ask the master of the vessel the screening questions outlined above.

If the screening indicates an elevated risk for exposure to COVID-19, CCG operational personnel should notify the ROC and refrain from boarding the vessel unless there is a risk of loss of life or serious injury. Operational personnel must notify the ROC of the situation on board the vessel. The ROC will inform the regional MSOC.

Detailed screening

If boarding a vessel is required due to a potential loss of life or serious injury, CCG operational personnel should follow standard operating procedures for patient assessment.

Before making contact with the patient, the following questions can assist with triage:

  1. What are the current concerning signs or symptoms?
  2. When did the disease first appear? (How many hours or days ago?)
  3. What happened over time that prompted a call for help now? (What changes in the patient’s condition have occurred over time?)
  4. What is the patient’s age? Does the patient have any other health problems such as diabetes, heart, lung or kidney disease?
  5. Has the patient been in close contact (respiratory fluids contact possible) with a confirmed case of COVID-19 OR close contact with someone who has travelled to or through Hubei Province, China in the past 14 days?
  6. Has the patient travelled to or through Hubei Province, China within past 14 days?

With the presence of flu-like signs and symptoms, patients should always wear a surgical mask to protect those around them, but especially the caregiver who will be assessing them.

Infection control procedures

First responders must be vigilant when called to attend a patient who may be suffering from novel coronavirus. Maintain a high level of clinical suspicion during triage. Symptoms of COVID-19 infection may include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever, general unwell feeling. The intensity has a wide range from mild simple "cold" to more severe symptoms requiring hospital treatment. According to current data, about 20% of infections appear to be severe, whereas 80% are mild to moderate.

When assessing or treating a patient exhibiting symptoms or there is a suspicion that the patient may have been exposed to COVID-19, the following airborne and contact infection control procedures should be followed:

  1. Don the following personal protective equipment: N95 mask (choose the appropriate mask for your last fit test), gloves, face shield, and Tyvec suit (if available). If Tyvec suit is unavailable, responders are advised to wash clothes after treating patient.
  2. Place a surgical mask on the patient (N95 is not necessary and is not advised for use on patients).
  3. When possible, avoid contact with any fluids or respiratory secretions from the patient.
  4. Minimize the number of responders in close contact with the patient.
  5. Wash hands frequently.

Post exposure treatment

If exposed to a person at risk of COVID-19 infection, the exposure to symptom onset time (incubation) ranges from 2-14 days. If infected, the illness ranges from 4-7 days. Like any viral illness, there is no specific treatment other than supporting the body while the immune system combats the virus. Personnel experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should rest in isolation and seek medical advice.

Enquiries

Enquiries regarding this Operations Safety Bulletin should be directed to:

Date modified: