The CDC recently published an updated guidance for pharmacies during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, based on the most recent information regarding safety practices and precautions for the disease.1
The CDC explained that these guidelines should be applied to all staff in pharmacies so that it is possible to minimize risks to the health of staff and customers and to ensure that pharmacies are able to continuously stay open to support public health.1
There were 4 major changes made from previous guidelines in the following areas:1
- All people entering a pharmacy should wear a face covering, regardless of whether they present any symptoms. The only exceptions are for children under the age 2 and anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance, as they should not wear cloth face coverings for safety reasons.
- All pharmacists and pharmacy technicians should wear a facemask while in the pharmacy.
- Routine clinical preventive services that require face to face encounters, such as adult immunizations, should be postponed and rescheduled.
- Special considerations should be applied to clinics that are co-located in pharmacies, such as: Signs should be posted by the door instructing patients of the clinic with respiratory illness to either return to their vehicles or remain outside, where they should proceed to call the clinic and allow the appropriate triage to be performed before entering the store. If possible, patients with mild symptoms should be managed over the phone and sent home with instructions for care. Facemasks or cloth face coverings should be provided for all patients not already wearing one, ideally before they enter the store. If possible, separate entrances for clinic patients should be provided. Otherwise, a clear path should be created to the clinic, with partitions or other barriers to minimize contact with pharmacy customers.
The other areas of the guidance echoed the previously detailed points by the CDC in prior COVID-19 updates. These points included continuing to:1
- advise staff who are sick to stay home
- provide hand sanitizer for customers on counters and sufficient soap and water and hand sanitizer for staff
- encourage prescribers to submit prescription orders over the telephone or electronically
- place packaged medication on the counter for customers instead of handing it to them
- use strategies to minimize close contact between staff and customers and between customers, including observing social distancing guidelines and other safety precautionshttps://pharmacytimes.s3.amazonaws.com/v1_media/AdobeStock_97411872.jpeg
The guidelines also acknowledged the importance of continuing to reduce risk during COVID-19 testing and other close-contact pharmacy care services for all pharmacies that are participating in public health testing for COVID-19. For these pharmacies on the frontlines of testing patients, safety is of the utmost importance.1
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Considerations for Pharmacies during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/pharmacies.html. Accessed April 16, 2020.