Do animal shelters need a COVID-19 plan, and why?
- To minimize the impact on life-saving capacity;
- To minimize the impact on staff;
- To help protect volunteers and visitors.
Virologist Dr. Ian Mckay, in his excellent Virology Down Under blog, states, “China has bought us time to prepare.” We should use that time well.
Staff and operations
Shelters need contingency plans for how they would deal with staff shortages and any supply line issues that may arise. What are the critical functions of the organization and how can they be maintained? What are the critical supplies and which of those are most at risk? We should work to ensure that we have adequate supplies of surgical masks, gloves and IV fluids and a plan for what we would do if there is a shortage. We should not hoard or stockpile – others need these supplies too.
Shelters also need a plan for dealing with effects on the economy that may impact donations.
Don’t brush this aside but don’t panic either
We don’t know how this is going to play out. Anyone who pretends they do is deluded. At the extremes, some people dismiss this epidemic as “just like the ‘flu”. Others are barricading themselves indoors and living in a state of fear, even if there are no cases in their area. There’s a sensible middle ground and it’s important to stay inside it.
One of the ways to keep to the middle ground is to get information from authoritative sources and to avoid sensationalist media coverage. Some good sources are:
- Health Canada coronavirus updates
- The World Health Organization COVID-19 situation reports
- Local public health units
What leadership and staff really need to know
- The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and cough. Nasal congestion and sneezing are probably something else.
- Shelter staff should stay home if they have a fever or cough and should be empowered to do so by their workplace.
- Most cases are mild.
- Call ahead if you require medical care for a possible COVID-19 infection.
- Wash or sanitize hands frequently.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Ensure that you have sufficient critical supplies at home, including essential prescription medications.
Blog post by Dr. Linda Jacobson BVSc MMedVet PhD