Thank you for your continued support and leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are highlights regarding Kaiser Permanente’s ongoing response. Regular updates can also be found by visiting about.kp.org.
A wide array of information on the fast-moving coordinated response can also be found on California’s www.covid19.ca.gov portal and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is also posting guidance notices on its website to help public institutions manage crisis response. If you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 510-292-8685.
Kaiser Permanente Preparedness
Kaiser Permanente is working with our public health partners to manage all aspects of the health care delivery continuum, and so far, our plans are working even as conditions, needs and priorities change.
Kaiser Permanente has been working on confronting highly infectious diseases for years, and we are confident we can safely treat patients who have been infected with COVID-19, with minimal risk to other patients, members and employees. Staff at all our medical centers have practiced and follow public-health guidance to be used with the coronavirus. As more has been learned about this virus, recommendations have evolved.
Our national command center has been open since February to prepare our staff and facilities to screen and treat the growing numbers of our members who have become ill or are concerned they are ill.
Our physicians and other caregivers are especially focused on members and patients with COVID-19 symptoms, including respiratory symptoms and fever. Those who have severe symptoms will in most cases be isolated in our medical centers. In cases where patients are otherwise healthy and their symptoms mild, they may be sent home to convalesce in isolation from others with regular monitoring by clinicians via phone or other means. Most infected people will recover on their own.
If a Kaiser Permanente member or family member is experiencing fever or respiratory symptoms, they should call the number on their Kaiser Permanente membership card for instructions.
We are closely monitoring the progress of this illness and will adjust our practices according to public health guidance.
We have had a robust, nationwide effort underway for nearly two months. Every aspect of our operations has been touched in some way. Among the steps we have taken, and continue to take:
- We do regular assessments of our hospital census, available beds, staffing, and material and equipment.
- We are carefully managing supplies and equipment to ensure our health care workers are safe and can deliver care where and when it is needed.
- We postponed elective procedures where appropriate, and we have ramped up our telemedicine capabilities, enabling members to communicate with their caregivers from the safety of their homes if they wish.
- Finally, we work closely with federal, state and local public health authorities, who are directing a coordinated response to COVID-19 among all health care providers.
Treatment Protocols (Enhanced Droplet Precautions)
As the COVID-19 public health crisis evolves, our top priority continues to be safely caring for patients and protecting the safety and well-being of our front-line staff. We are constantly learning more about COVID-19 as this pandemic evolves. When the COVID-19 virus was first identified, we established airborne protocols based on the limited information we knew about the virus at the time and in an effort to contain the virus from spreading. Experts and public health officials all over the world now have confirmed that the coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets, for example those produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Because COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through droplets spread when infected people cough or sneeze, Kaiser Permanente is using enhanced droplet precautions to treat patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. This is in line with CDC guidance, recommendations by the World Health Organization, and the practices of other health care providers in California and around the country.
Keeping Our People and Patients Safe
Based on consultation with the appropriate state agencies, we will continue to use enhanced droplet precautions for the care of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Staff members working with these patients or in units with COVID-19 patients will wear a respiratory/surgical mask.
For patients undergoing high-risk procedures for aerosolization of the coronavirus such as intubation, extubation, bronchoscopy and nebulizer treatments, we will continue the use of airborne precautions in addition to the face shield/goggles, gowns, and gloves. Staff members participating or assisting in these procedures are required to wear N95 respirators.
To further reduce the risk of spread of the virus and to ensure our entire health care workforce is supported in the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, we are implementing a comprehensive practice of issuing masks to all employees in our medical centers.
The mask types issued will be specific to each employee’s work situation, and all employees will receive guidance about use and care for those masks.
With the work of our supply chain operation and help from community and business partners, we are able to implement this practice. Our adherence to PPE stewardship practices is helping us preserve supply and protect our teams and patients.
We remain committed to both protecting the people of Kaiser Permanente and preserving the appropriate mask availability for the duration of the pandemic as we care for an increasing number of COVID-19 positive patients.
Kaiser Permanente is actively working with private as well as state and federal health officials to provide testing for patients who are under investigation for COVID-19. Testing results from these facilities are generally achieving the same turnaround time as testing with CDC and public health departments.
Kaiser Permanente also is testing in our own clinical laboratories to further augment testing capacity in Northern California and Southern California. The results of tests done internally are available in 24 hours or less. As spelled out in CDC guidance, for the time being COVID-19 tests are only available by a doctor’s order for high-risk patients who meet specific criteria, who then receive an appointment to arrive for testing at a specially equipped testing site, including drive-up sites.
Postponing Elective Procedures
As the COVID-19 situation rapidly advances, the demands on the health care system threaten to exhaust our supplies, equipment, and our people. In alignment with recommendations from the CDC and the American College of Surgeons, the physicians of Kaiser Permanente are clinically evaluating all elective procedures scheduled for the next few weeks to determine those that can be safely postponed. Patients do not need to contact us about their scheduled procedures as we will proactively reach out to those affected by this decision. For Kaiser Permanente and other health care providers this is a necessary step to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that we continue to have the resources, capacity, and staff available to care for our members and the communities we serve.
To allow our members to stay at home if they want, and to increase the number of patients we can treat, Kaiser Permanente is offering more video and phone visits to increase member access to ambulatory care. Allowing people to stay home and still get great care will also help address the community spread of COVID-19 and ease the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) – masks, gowns, and gloves.
- We are proactively reaching out to members to make this option available to them for appointments.
- Our members continue to have a choice of phone, video or in-person visits and are encouraged to phone or securely email their doctor with any questions about their ongoing care needs via the My Health Manager function on kp.org.
- The majority of our visits systemwide are now phone and video visits with a clinician.
- We are now conducting approximately 65,000 televisits a day systemwide.
We are restricting visitors to our hospitals and medical office buildings with limited exceptions for end-of-life care, labor & delivery, postpartum, pediatrics, including PICU/NICU, as well as individuals who require a personal caregiver to be present. We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of our members and the community to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health of others.
Our goal is to ensure we have adequate access to the personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies needed for the screening and treatment of COVID-19 patients now and over the long run. By using PPE when medically indicated, we will help to ensure these supplies remain available over the course of this pandemic.
As the virus is now spreading quickly through many communities, we’ve gone from screening a few patients a day to screening thousands across our enterprise nationally, and our equipment and supply needs have increased dramatically as a result. At the same time, incoming shipments of new supplies and equipment we have had on order are now being delayed or cancelled, due to manufacturers’ supply chain challenges and a surge of demand across the global health care industry.
With the support of our supply teams and our staff, we have increased our supply of personal protective equipment, and in particular, masks. Through diligent conservation efforts and procuring more masks, we have the appropriate PPE to protect our team today and stabilized the number of days’ worth of supply we have on hand.
We continue to secure additional supplies through traditional as well as innovative means, such as making face shields and working with small businesses in the garment industry to begin making masks for Kaiser Permanente, and we are carefully managing supply access in each of our facilities.
In addition to our focus on masks, we’re also securing scrubs for those clinicians and staff providing direct care to our COVID-19 patients and those under investigation.
We are developing a national donation network to ensure equitable distribution of critical supplies across Kaiser Permanente and other community-based care providers. Donation opportunity information can be emailed to KPCOVID-19Donations@kp.org. We will contact the donor with further instructions, including how and where to send us the product.
How You Can Help Us
We need continued support for the Newsom Administration’s efforts to marshal the resources of the private sector and the federal government to boost production and procurement of PPE.
In order to slow the spread of the virus and protect those who are most vulnerable, it is critical to reinforce the need to follow the state’s stay-at-home directive, social distancing, and personal prevention guidelines.
Please continue to reinforce to your constituents that COVID-19 spreads like other respiratory viruses. Here are some tips for preventing the spread of this virus as well as cold and flu:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick (except to get medical care). Keep sick children home from school or day care.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. If you use a tissue, wash your hands afterward.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (like doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective.
- Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.
We trust that this update provides you with valuable information regarding how Kaiser Permanente is serving the people of California during this health care emergency. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need additional information.