COVID-19: Community and Faith-Based

Below is guidance for various types of organizations and service providers operating and providing assistance or safeguards in our communities.

Our communities are taking actions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please see below for recommendations on steps that can be taken by specific groups.

 Safer at Home

The best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community is to stay home. You can learn more by reading the DHS Safer at Home Emergency Order and FAQs.

 

 Opening a Local Community Isolation Center

The Isolation Site Operational Manual can help communities prepare to set up an isolation site to serve those who have tested positive for or who are suspected to have COVID-19, and are unable to isolate in their own homes. It covers choosing a site, referring people to the facility, and running the facility.

These facilities are for symptomatic individuals suspected to be infected with COVID-19 or who have a confirmed case of COVID-19. Individuals will not be permitted to register at the facility unless referred by a medical provider or public health official. Individuals register and stay at the isolation facility on a voluntary basis. The expected length of stay will be about 14 days, or 72 hours after symptoms dissipate. At any time, either the individual or the facility may terminate the individual’s presence at the site. Those staying at the facility will have wellness checks by phone every four hours during the day and if needed at night.

 Faith-Based Organizations

At the direction of Governor Tony Evers and under the authority of Wis. Stat. § 252.02(3), the Department of Health Services (DHS) orders all nonessential gatherings of 10 people or more be cancelled, postponed, or closed statewide. This order includes places of worship and religious gatherings.

 Elder Nutrition Programs

Elder nutrition programs are encouraged to use existing emergency plans to the extent possible and coordinate with local public health departments to plan for alternative approaches for service provision as a result of COVID-19 concerns.

More can be found at: COVID-19: Elder Nutrition Program webpage.

 Correctional Facilities, Local Jails, and Secure Treatment Centers

How to Prepare

  • Develop a list of key contacts, including your local and state health departments. Discuss procedures for reporting suspected or confirmed cases ahead of time with a contact person at your local health department.
  • Develop contingency plans for increased absenteeism among staff due to their illness or illness within their family.
    • Develop flexible attendance and sick-leave policies.
    • Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff members.
  • Plan for supply chain disruptions that could affect both routine as well as medical supplies and equipment.
  • Identify staff, patients, or individuals in custody who could be at higher risk for severe illness, including those who are older or have underlying health conditions, and ensure special measures are taken to protect their health.
  • Ensure adequate prevention supplies (for example, soap, hand sanitizer) for staff, patients, and people in custody.
  • Monitor up-to-date information on the CDC COVID-19 website and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.
  • Plan to distribute timely and accurate information to staff, patients, individuals in custody, and the community.
    • Plans should include how to communicate general information about COVID-19 and personal prevention measures, how to provide transparency about the measures being taken in response to the outbreak, and the status of the outbreak (number of illnesses, operational changes, etc.) inside the facility.
    • Identify everyone in your chain of communication (staff, patients, individuals in custody, families and loved ones of patients or individuals in custody, key community partners, etc.) and establish systems for sharing information.
    • Consider platforms, such as hotlines, automated text messaging, and websites, to help disseminate information to those inside and outside your organization.

Reduce the Potential for Transmission from the Community to Inside the Facility

  • Limit visitors to the facility.
    • Restrict visitation of all visitors and nonessential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. In those cases, visitors should be limited to a specific room only.
    • Suspend volunteers’ and outside program providers’ access to the facility. Encourage volunteers to find other ways to deliver their programming. Add volunteers to approved call lists, at the volunteers’ request.
  • Screen visitors and staff for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection, as well as exposure risk, such as close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or who was confirmed to have COVID-19.
    • Screen all incoming patients or individuals in custody for symptoms before they can enter the booking facility. Reject the admission of anyone showing symptoms and divert them to a health care facility.
    • Screen staff and officers for symptoms before allowing them to enter the facility. Consider switching to a system where staff and officer submits forms electronically.
    • Screen all incoming staff on a daily basis.
  • Monitor staff, patients, or individuals in custody for potential illness.
    • Perform regular health checks for symptoms of COVID-19. Fever (>100.4°F) and/or respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath).
    • Ill individuals should be separated from others until they can be isolated or sent home.
  • Implement strategies to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses within facilities. Common-sense preventive actions for staff can be highly effective methods of reducing the spread of respiratory illness in the facility population. Educate staff, patients or individuals in custody on:
    • Staying home when sick. CDC has resources, such as posters, with messages for staff about staying home when sick and how to avoid spreading germs.
    • Appropriately covering coughs and sneezes.
    • Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces: see cleaning and disinfection guidance, below.
    • Washing hands often and thoroughly. CDC has posters with messages and graphics for all ages on appropriate handwashing techniques, which should be posted by all restrooms.
  • Implement social distancing measures, such as:
    • Temporarily restricting movement. 
    • Suspending all community work crews. 
    • Suspending nonessential transport within or among facilities.
    • Staggering meal and activity times to minimize the number of individuals congregating.
    • Canceling large group events.
    • Requiring individuals to maintain 6 feet of separation, when possible.
    • Making accommodations for phone calls and video conferences/visits or non-contact visits, when possible.
  • Limit unnecessary staff movement throughout the facility. When possible, prevent the potential for spread by maintaining staff in specific areas rather than rotating them throughout the facility.
  • Establish plans for patients and individuals in custody to continue social services and education.
    • Explore alternative communication mechanisms. 
    • Consider developing a plan to implement distance learning for education.

Cleaning and Disinfection

  • Perform routine environmental cleaning.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
    • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • In areas where an individual with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 has been present, a more stringent environmental cleaning and disinfection protocol should be followed. For more information on cleaning and disinfection, see the DHS Disinfection and Cleaning after a COVID-19 case flyer
  • Regularly sanitize vehicles used to transfer incarcerated people to court and reduce use of these vehicles to the greatest extent possible.

What to Do If Someone Is Sick

  • Patients or individuals in custody who become sick should be given a clean, disposable face mask to wear. Disposable face masks should be reserved for use by individuals who exhibit respiratory symptoms. Staff who have close contact with individuals in these areas should use personal protective equipment (PPE) and:
  • As possible, confine individuals with respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to individual rooms or a separate area of the facility. As possible, these individuals should have a separate bathroom from the healthy population.
  • Have ill individuals avoid common areas.
  • If you identify any patient or individual in custody with severe symptoms, notify your local public health department and arrange for the individual to receive immediate medical care. If this is an individual with suspected COVID-19, notify the transfer team and medical facility before transfer. Severe symptoms include:
    • Extreme difficultly breathing (not being able to speak without gasping for air)
    • Bluish lips or face
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • Severe, persistent dizziness or lightheadedness
    • New confusion, or inability to arouse
    • New seizure or seizures that won’t stop
  • Staff with respiratory symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 infection should implement home isolation or voluntary quarantine. 
  • Staff, patients, or individuals in custody with respiratory symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 infection should be excluded from work/separated from the general population until they have completed a period of isolation. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 may return only if the following criteria are met:
    • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath); and,
    • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared. 
  • Individuals who had symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath or muscle aches) but did not get tested for COVID-19 should stay out of work until they have been free of these symptoms for 72 hours. 

Education/Health Promotion

  • Implement everyday preventive actions and provide instructions to your staff, patients, or individuals in custody about actions to prevent disease spread. Meet with your staff to discuss plans to help patients or individuals in custody to implement personal preventive measures.
  • Download COVID-19 posters and CDC Fact Sheets and keep your staff and patients or individuals in custody informed about public health recommendations to prevent disease spread and about changes to services that might be related to the outbreak. Messaging may include: 
    • Posting signs at entrances and in strategic places that provide instruction on hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette.
    • Providing educational materials about COVID-19 for non-English speakers, as needed.
    • Encouraging ill staff to stay home (or be sent home if they develop symptoms while at the facility) to prevent transmitting the infection to others.

Resources

 Blood Banks

Blood Collection

This guidance is intended to support blood collection site operations. There is a severe blood shortage and donors are urgently needed. Respiratory viruses, in general, are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus.

Blood donated at collection sites supports multiple types of patients (for example, trauma, sickle cell, and burn). The steps below include and complement the routine procedures followed at blood collection sites.

How can blood banks prevent spread of infection?

  • Environmental infection control
    • Wiping down donor-touched areas after every collection. Clean and disinfect environmental surfaces in accordance with standard facility protocols after each donor has vacated the station and before setting up for arrival of a new donor at that station. Ensure that environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures are followed consistently and correctly.
    • Using sterile collection sets for every donation.
    • Preparing the arm for donation with aseptic scrub.
    • Enhanced disinfecting of equipment. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. See the CDC COVID-19 Disinfection Guidance and general CDC disinfection guidance for more information. Additionally, if a confirmed case is identified, follow the steps in the DHS Disinfection and Cleaning after a COVID-19 case flyer
    • Providing hand sanitizer for use before entering and throughout the donation appointment.
  • When scheduling appointments, consider educating donors to refrain from blood donation if they have:
    • Fever (>100.4°F) AND/OR respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath).
    • Cared for, lived with, or otherwise had close contact with individuals diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19.
    • Been diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19.
  • Monitoring donors upon arrival and monitoring staff.
    • Screen prospective donors at check-in and monitor staff and volunteers for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection, as well as exposure risk, such as close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or who was confirmed to have COVID-19.
    • Take the temperature of prospective donors and exclude individuals with fever (>100.4°F) AND/OR respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath). Ill individuals should be asked to put on a face mask and separated from others until they can be isolated and sent home.
    • Conduct standard staff health assessments prior to all blood drives. Apply the same standards listed above for prospective donors to staff. Staff and visitors who present with fever or respiratory infection symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) should be sent home as soon as possible. Separate them from others and have them don a face mask until they go home. When feasible, identify areas where these individuals can be isolated prior to being sent home.
    • Follow current recommendations for the screening and potential deferral of blood and plasma donors, available in FDA’s Updated Information for Blood Establishments Regarding the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.
    • Encourage staff to assess themselves each day before leaving for work for symptoms consistent with COVID-19. If experiencing new onset of fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, OR shortness of breath, remain at home and contact the established point of contact (public health authorities or their facility’s occupational health program) for medical evaluation prior to returning to work. If any of the above symptoms develop while at work, cease collection facility activities, notify your supervisor, minimize contact with others in facility, and go home promptly.
  • Social distancing
    • Spacing beds and chairs, where possible, to follow social distancing practices between donors.
    • During this time, blankets typically used by platelet, Power Red, and AB Elite donors at Red Cross blood donation centers will be laundered after each use, which may limit their availability. Donors are encouraged to bring their own blankets, but electric blankets and heating pads are not permitted.
  • Additional staff measures
    • Designate a time to meet with your staff and volunteers to educate them on COVID-19 and what they may need to do to prepare.
    • Talk to them about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and actions blood collection centers are taking to protect them.
    • Instruct staff and volunteers not to report to work when ill. Implement and reinforce sick leave policies that are nonpunitive, flexible, and consistent with public health guidance.
    • Follow hand hygiene guidance to help prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Staff should use an alcohol-based hand rub when indicated or wash their hands with soap and water between contacts with different blood donors. If gloves are used, staff should change their gloves and perform hand hygiene between contact with different blood donors. Perform hand hygiene often and properly. CDC has posters with messages and graphics for all ages on appropriate handwashing techniques, which should be posted by all restrooms.
    • With regard to staff safety, the wearing of gloves and hand cleansing are governed by OSHA requirements pertaining to bloodborne pathogens.

If there was a COVID-19 confirmed donor, visitor, or staff member at the blood bank, how can the blood bank proceed?

Clean and disinfect all potentially contaminated surfaces.

  • It is recommended to close off areas used by ill persons and wait as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection to minimize the potential for exposure to respiratory droplets.
  • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
  • Wait, if possible, up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection. Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas (for example, offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces. There is no recommended minimum amount of time that employers should wait after disinfection protocols have been implemented before employees can return to work in that area.

Individuals who were not wearing recommended personal protective equipment and have had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 should self-quarantine and self-monitor at home for 14 days from when they last had contact with the infected person.

When can an individual recovering from illness return to work/donate?

Staff, donors, or visitors with fever or respiratory symptoms should be excluded from the site and separated from the general population until they have completed a period of isolation. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 may return only if the following criteria are met:

  • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath).
  • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Additionally, the CDC provides criteria for individuals that tested positive for COVID-19 related to discontinue home isolation.

Resources:

 Shelters

This guidance is intended to support response planning by homeless service providers, including overnight emergency shelters, day shelters, and meal service providers.

It should also be a source of guidance for domestic violence shelters, or similar emergent temporary group living arrangements. 

Planning

Plan for higher shelter usage during the outbreak. 

  • Consult with community leaders, local public health departments, and faith-based or nonprofit organizations about places you can refer clients to if your shelter space is full. 
  • Identify short-term volunteers to staff shelters with more usage. 
  • Consider the need for extra supplies (for example, food, toiletries) and surge staff, ensuring they have personal protective equipment.

Develop a list of key contacts, including your local and state health departments.

Identify a contact person at your local health department and discuss procedures for reporting suspected or confirmed cases.

Identify health care facilities and alternate care sites where clients with respiratory illness can seek housing and receive appropriate care.

  • Establish points of contact and proactively discuss preferences for coordination.
  • Develop a plan for transporting persons with severe illness to medical facilities. 

Develop contingency plans for increased absenteeism among staff and volunteers due to their illness or illness within their family. 

  • Develop flexible attendance and sick-leave policies. 
  • Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff members. 

Identify staff and clients who could be at higher risk for severe illness, including those who are older or have underlying health conditions, to ensure their needs are taken into consideration.

Staff and volunteers at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection should not be designated as caregivers for sick clients staying in the shelter.

Monitor up-to-date information on the CDC COVID-19 website and the DHS COVID-19 website.

Screen Clients and Monitor Staff/Volunteers

Screen clients at check-in and monitor staff/volunteers for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection, as well as exposure risk, such as close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms or who was confirmed to have COVID-19. The shelter should also post a sign that ensures everyone answers screening questions before entering the facility.   

At check-in, provide any client with respiratory symptoms (cough or fever) with a surgical mask) and physically separate them from non-symptomatic clients (see “Physical Space” below).

Limit visitors to the facility. If anyone has symptoms and is NOT a client needing a place to sleep, they may not enter facility at all. If they are a client and have no place else to go, then they must wear a mask and sleep in a separate area.
 
Physical Space/Engineering Controls

Identify space that can be used to accommodate clients with mild respiratory symptoms and separate them from others. 

  • Most persons with COVID-19 infections will likely have mild symptoms and not require hospital care. Furthermore, it might not be possible to determine if a person has COVID-19 or another respiratory illness.
  • Designate a room and bathroom (if available) for clients with mild illness who remain at the shelter and develop a plan for cleaning the room daily.
  • Discuss with local health authorities potential alternative housing sites for individuals with mild illness due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Ensure that beds/mats are at least 6 feet apart in general sleeping areas, and request clients alternate sleeping orientation (head-to-toe).

Provide access to fluids, tissues, and plastic bags for proper disposal of used tissues.

Ensure bathrooms and sinks are consistently stocked with soap and drying materials for handwashing.

Provide hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol at key points in the shelter, such as at registration, entrances/exits, and eating areas.

Cleaning and Disinfection

Perform routine environmental cleaning.

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

In areas where an individual with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 has been present, more stringent environmental cleaning and disinfection protocol should be followed. For more information on cleaning and disinfection see the DHS Disinfection and Cleaning after a COVID-19 case flyer

Hygiene and Prevention

Implement strategies to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses within facilities. Common-sense preventive actions for staff can be highly effective methods of reducing the spread of respiratory illness in the facility population. Measures include: 

  • Staying home when sick. CDC has resources such as posters with messages for staff about staying home when sick and how to avoid spreading germs
  • Appropriately covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces: see disinfection guidance, below.
  • Washing hands often and thoroughly. CDC has posters with messages and graphics for all ages on appropriate handwashing techniques, which should be posted by all restrooms.
  • Implement social distancing measures.

Education/Health Promotion 

  • Implement everyday preventive actions and provide instructions to your workers about actions to prevent disease spread. Meet with your staff to discuss plans to help clients implement personal preventive measures.
  • Download COVID-19 posters and CDC Fact Sheets and keep your clients and guests informed about public health recommendations to prevent disease spread and about changes to services that might be related to the outbreak. Messaging may include:
    • Posting signs at entrances and in strategic places providing instruction on hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette.
    • Providing educational materials about COVID-19 for non-English speakers, as needed.
    • Encouraging ill staff and volunteers to stay home (or be sent home if they develop symptoms while at the facility) to prevent transmitting the infection to others.

Client and Staff Interaction

  • Minimize face-to-face interactions between staff members and clients with respiratory symptoms.
  • If staff are handling client belongings, they should use disposable gloves. Make sure to train any staff using gloves to ensure proper use.
  • Use physical barriers to protect staff who will have interactions with clients with unknown infection status (for example, sneeze guard at check-in or additional table between staff and clients to increase distance).

Communications Plan

Create a plan to distribute timely and accurate information to clients and staff.

  • Identify everyone in your chain of communication (staff, volunteers, key community partners, etc.) and establish systems for sharing information.
  • Identify platforms, such as hotlines, automated text messaging, and websites, to help disseminate information to those inside and outside your organization.

What To Do If Someone Is Sick

  • Clients who become sick should be given a clean disposable face mask to wear while staying at the shelter. Disposable face masks should be reserved for use by clients who exhibit respiratory symptoms.  
  • As possible, confine clients with respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to individual rooms 
    • Have ill clients avoid common areas.
    • If individual rooms are not available, consider using a large, well-ventilated room.
    • If possible, designate a separate bathroom for sick clients with COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Decisions about whether clients with mild illness due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should remain in the shelter or be directed to alternative housing sites should be made in coordination with local health authorities.
  • If you identify any client with severe symptoms, notify your public health department and arrange for the client to receive immediate medical care. If this is a client with suspected COVID-19, notify the transfer team and medical facility before transfer. Severe symptoms include:
    • Extremely difficult breathing (not being able to speak without gasping for air)
    • Bluish lips or face
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • Severe, persistent dizziness or lightheadedness
    • New confusion, or inability to arouse
    • New seizure or seizures that won’t stop
  • Staff/volunteers with respiratory symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 infection should implement home isolation or voluntary quarantine. 

Staff volunteers who are tested for COVID-19 and are positive must be excluded from work until they have completed a period of home isolation. They may return to work only if the following criteria are met: 

  • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath).
  • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Staff or volunteers who had fever, cough, shortness of breath, or muscle aches but did NOT get tested for COVID-19 should stay out of work until they have been free of these symptoms for 72 hours.

 Monitor for Illness

Learn what you need to do if you are asked to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 or if you need to self-quarantine.

 

Resources:

Last Revised: April 3, 2020

 RESPONSE RESOURCES FOR WISCONSINITES — www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/help.htm