The second wave of the COVID19 pandemic is causing a shortage of crucial medications, oxygen cylinders, hospital beds and resulting in tremendous loss of lives. It has left many families and housing societies quarantined, especially in Maharashtra. And just like Maharashtra, other states are following suit with lockdowns in place to stop the spread of coronavirus. With the increasing numbers in multiples of two and three, the healthcare system is currently crunched. In such circumstances, every citizen, household, and housing society will need to brace for emergencies. These emergencies can be in form of being ready with oxygen support, keeping ambulance services numbers handy, and allotted isolation spaces within the premises.

TC46 connected with the Director-Critical Care Dr Rahul Pandit of Fortis Hospitals, Mumbai in a bid to encourage every responsible citizen to make collective efforts to fight the COVID19 pandemic. Here, he advises what societies can do to be prepared for a situation where tenants catch the COVID infection, and bridge the need gap for a few hours, till the patients receive the required medical assistance or get hospitalized.

1. Remember to follow the 5 basic rules for utmost safety

  • An emergency holding medical area or an isolation area for patients should be created at the society’s clubhouse/ office/ gymnasium; this designated area must have an attached bathroom 
  • Have a simple mattress and pillow placed where patients can lie down and rest
  • Arrange for a few Pulse Oximeters, BP monitors, and Thermometers to check vitals of patients from time to time
  • Arrange for an Oxygen Concentrator machine (which can be rented) to give up to 5liters per minute of Oxygen to patients requiring it. Don’t get oxygen cylinders, they should be strictly reserved for hospitals 
  • Arrange for Hand Sanitizer, a box of gloves, N95 masks, normal masks, and an Infrared Thermometer too

2. Ensure the maintenance of isolation areas within housing societies 

  • The area should be sanitized and cleaned every two days (if not occupied)
  • If patients are at the isolation area, then cleaning should be done daily
  • Keep 1 person in charge of this isolation area
  • In case of an emergency, the person in charge of the management of this designated area should be contacted immediately; other residents should be alerted to avoid any panic
  • A single committee (of 4-5 persons) should ideally be formed for the management of this holding area who can support the managing person
  • One person from the committee should be the point of contact for residents to request the use of the holding area. This designated person must always wear an N95 mask and gloves, inspect preparedness, and then call the suspect or COVID confirmed resident to the designated area
  • The patient must himself or herself be wearing a simple cloth mask. Always keep a distance of at least 2meters from other patients and do not touch your face, eyes, or mouth
  • The patient’s temperature must be measured with the Infrared Thermometer, using the no-touch technique
  • If the patient is able to help himself, then instruct the patient to measure oxygen saturation, if the patient needs assistance then ideally the patient’s family member should step in; he or she should also wear an N95 mask, gloves and help measure oxygen saturation. If the saturation is below 95% then committee members should instruct and guide the patient and/or the family member to start oxygen concentrator and apply Oxygen Cannula or mask to the patient and keep flow at 4-5Lit/min
  • Keep measuring Oxygen Saturation every 15mins and keep a note of all measurements on a note pad
  • Administrators should ensure that no other resident or person visits the holding area, to avoid unnecessary exposure
  • The administrator and a person from the patient’s family, should seek medical assistance and arrange a hospital visit for the patient
  • The administrator and a family member should call the local municipal war room or nearest hospital and arrange for admission or assessment in the emergency department
  • Once the patient is successfully moved to a hospital, the area should be sanitized as per the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation standards. The area is only ready to use again once it is sanitized
  • Also, look out for a centralized grocery supplier so that all tenants can get the supplies on time

The idea behind this is, if any resident of a society showcases any symptoms of COVID19 and is short of breath, then he or she can be shifted to this allocated area, where temperature and Oxygen Saturation is monitored. If oxygen saturation is low, below 95%, supplemental oxygen can be administered to the patient via Nasal Cannula or Oxygen Mask at 4-5Lit/Min using the Oxygen Concentrator. This, however, is only a stop-gap arrangement until a hospital bed is arranged. This is by no means a solution to stay there for more than a few hours, but simply a place to get basic care and oxygen until a hospital bed is arranged.

3. Office-goers should follow strict guidelines to curb the spread of the virus

Some guidelines for working members who must commute to their offices would be:

  • To sanitize their hands before entering the housing society
  • Maintain proper distancing when at work
  • Keeping the mask on at all times
  • Keep footwear out of the house after coming home from outside
  • Taking a hot shower after coming from outside
  • Clothes worn outdoors should be washed separately

4. Food deliveries, couriers and online shopping packages need to be sanitized

It is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging. However, maintaining precaution is a must. Housing societies should keep an automated sanitizer dispenser, an Infrared Thermometer, and an Oximeter at the entrance for every visitor to be checked and sanitized. Delivery people can be checked and sanitized at the entrance itself. The other norms would include social distancing, wearing a mask, keeping food, grocery and e-commerce deliveries at the society lobby and residents can get it picked from there themselves.

5. Use doctor-recommended sanitization products and techniques for common areas of housing societies

Spraying of disinfectants can be done once in a while, but it may lead to new health complications. As a result, it is important that the activity is conducted in a controlled manner and only when absolutely necessary. Using Sodium Hypochlorite solution to wipe down commonly touched surfaces, twice a day, is a good first step.

6. Keep your kids occupied indoors rather than letting them venture out

For much of last year, children were less affected by COVID19. However, with the second wave raging upon us, this scenario changed. This time children are quite affected and are more at risk. Children are reported to have mild symptoms or of being asymptomatic and super spreaders. The symptoms may include fever, rash, gastrointestinal symptoms, weakness, persistent fever, increased respiratory problems, and dry cough. Kids seem to spread the virus rather quickly and so utmost precautions need to be taken as we are uncertain of its impact on them. Therefore, it is better that kids should not be allowed to venture out but rather kept occupied indoors. Having said that, you may take your kids for a stroll or a quick game in the society premises for a short while so that they enjoy a little fresh breeze. However, wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing is a must.

7. Housing societies should screen all visitors and order groceries in bulk to reduce contact

Following guidelines set out by BMC is a must. If there are more than COVID positive 5 cases in a society, then all members must restrict from venturing out. The housing society must follow the sanitization norms from time to time. Screen all visitors, house helps, cooks, and caretakers of the elderly people coming to the society. Groceries for members can be ordered from one vendor to avoid too many people coming into the society.

On an individual level, you can do your part for the society by getting vaccinated. Vaccination is the best prevention for COVID-19 and experts are urging people to get vaccinated soon. Don’t let the rumours stop you from getting vaccinated, learn the truth and stay safe.

Last but not the least, this is a time where neighbours and societies need to step as a community to help each other in this crisis. COVID 19 can be defeated, if we follow all the norms. This is a treatable infection and ostracization of people will only add to the family’s woes. Remember, together we can all beat COVID19.

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