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Introduction: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and highly contagious nature of SARS-CoV-2, emergency departments (EDs) have been forced to implement new measures and protocols to minimize the spread of the disease within their departments. The primary objective of this study was to determine if the implementation of a designated COVID-19 cohort area (hot zone) within a busy ED mitigated the dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 throughout the rest of the department.
Methods: In an ED of a tertiary academic medical center, with 64,000 annual visits, an eight room pod was designated for known COVID-19 or individuals with high suspicion for infection. There was a single entry and exit for donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE). Health care workers (HCW) changed gowns and gloves between patients, but maintained their N-95 mask and face shield, cleaning the shield with a germicidal wipe between patients. Staffing assignments designated nurses and technicians to remain in this area for 4 h, where physicians regularly moved between the hot zone and rest of the ED. Fifteen surface samples and four air samples were taken to evaluate SARS-CoV-2 contamination levels and the effectiveness of infection control practices. Samples were collected outside of patient rooms in 3 primary ED patient care areas, the reception area, the primary nurses station, inside the cohort area, and the PPE donning and doffing areas immediately adjacent. Samples were recovered and analyzed for the presence of the E gene of SARS-CoV-2 using RT-PCR.
Results: SARS-CoV-2 was not detected on any surface samples, including in and around the cohort area. All air samples outside the COVID-19 hot zone were negative for SARS-CoV-2, but air samples within the cohort area had a low level of viral contamination.
Conclusion: A designated COVID-19 cohort area resulted in no air or surface contamination outside of the hot zone, and only minimal air, but no surface contamination, within the hot zone.
Keywords: COVID-19; Emergency department; SARS-CoV-2; Viral sampling.