FAQ for healthcare providers caring for patients with COVID-19

Caring for someone suspected of having COVID-19, infection prevention and control must be implemented to minimize the risk of transmission. Here are the most common questions we’ve received from healthcare workers and family members who are out there taking care of Canadians who are sick.

Should supplies from COVID-19 affected countries be sterilized?

There is no data to suggest goods or products shipped from COVID-19 affected countries will transfer the virus to settings such as hospitals and medical clinics. As they are not believed to pose a risk to public health, they do not require sterilization or disinfecting of any kind.

What PPE should be worn when performing a mouth swab on a patient?

Healthcare workers taking nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swabs should be, first off, fully trained to do so. Secondly, they should be wearing a long-sleeve surgical gown, medical face mask, eye protection such as eye goggles or a face shield, and gloves.

Can multiple COVID-19 patients be in the same room?

Ideally, you want all suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients to be isolated in their own individual room. When not feasible, however, many healthcare organizations have taken to cohorting patients together. A minimum of 1-meter distance between beds should be maintained.

Can disposable face masks be sterilized and reused?

Typically, no. Disposable face masks are single-use only. They should be disposed of when appropriate and replaced with a new face mask. In this process, healthcare workers shouldn’t forget to wash their hands after disposing of the old face mask and before putting on a new one.

How long can COVID-19 survive on a dry surface?

There is no agreed-upon conclusion on how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces. Though studies have been conducted, they’ve each produced their own unique conclusion. Various factors evidently play into it, including temperature, humidity, and surface type. It is best to disinfect everything a patient with COVID-19 could have come into contact with, ensuring all bases are covered.

What disinfectants are recommended for COVID-19?

The disinfectants you choose to use to clean suspected COVID-19 should be medical-grade, especially in healthcare environments. The World Health Organization recommends alcohol concentrations of 70% in any disinfectant used to clean equipment. This applies to any hand sanitizer as well. Alcohol-free cleaners, disinfectants, or sanitizers are not recommended.

How do I clean bedding, towels, and linens of COVID-19 patients?

  • Wear your PPE, including a face mask, eye protection, and long-sleeve gown.
  • Do not put the linens or towels against your body. Put them in a designated container.
  • Wash and disinfect linens in warm water and medical-grade laundry detergent. If a washing machine isn’t available, soak them in hot water or 0.05% chlorine for roughly 30 minutes and then rinse with clean water before allowing them time to dry in the sunlight.


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