Tuesday, March 3, 2020

A Message From APA on COVID-19

As the U.S. addresses COVID-19 (coronavirus), all medical associations are working to ensure the continued operations of their respective organizations, governing bodies, assemblies, boards, meetings, and conferences. APA is following updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WHO, NIH, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), and the other medical specialty societies.

Stay Informed

The CDC is the main, most reliable resource. Its comprehensive website has the most up-to-date information, including a fact sheet on what you need to know, guidance on prevention and control, and guidance for travelers.

The CDC recommends basic hygienic precautions, similar to those used to prevent the spread of other diseases, including the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.

Some additional precautions from a former Health Director include the following:

  • No physical contact, including handshakes.
  • Place disinfectant wipes and small and large bottles of antibacterial hand gel in high-use areas.
  • Don’t share pens.
  • Do not eat from shared food plates.
  • Don’t touch elevator (lift) buttons, ticket kiosk buttons in public garages, and so on. Use a tissue when touching such buttons and then throw it away.

Regarding air travel, airlines have stated that between 94% and 99.9% of airborne microbes are captured, and a total changeover of air occurs every two or three minutes. Therefore, the high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are hospital quality, so risk of infection on airplanes is low. Travelers should try to avoid contact with sick passengers and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains 60% to 95% alcohol.

Annual Meeting

APA plans to hold the Annual Meeting and is monitoring the information coming daily from the CDC and other sources. In addition, APA is in contact with the secretary of health of Pennsylvania and the health commissioner of Philadelphia. Registration is strong, and APA and the Pennsylvania Convention Center are following CDC protocols to ensure the health and safety of attendees. APA is also in consultation with the CEOs of other large medical organizations that are holding similar conferences.

While the CDC notes that the immediate risk from COVID-19 is low in most of the United States, including Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., APA is prepared to respond rapidly to any issues that arise during the meeting and provide assistance to attendees. We are also taking the following actions:

  • Enhancing communication to quickly notify attendees of any change in the status of the meeting through the APA website, email messages, and push notifications through the APA Meetings App.
  • Increasing the number of hand-sanitizing stations placed throughout the convention center.
  • Ensuring that a first aid station is readily available to address health care concerns of attendees.
  • Actively encouraging attendees to take common-sense precautions and follow CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of illness.
  • Following CDC recommendations and protocols for cleanliness at event facilities.

Patient Resources

Many of the patients we treat also are worried about COVID-19. APA recently published a blog written by Dr. Joshua Morganstein, who is chair of APA’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disaster, that provides helpful information for psychiatrists in speaking with their patients. Other informative fact sheets are also available.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact APA.

Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., F.R.C.P.-E., F.R.C.Psych.
CEO & Medical Director
American Psychiatric Association


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