This page is intended to provide general information on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The CFNU will be updating this page with additional information as it becomes available.
What is COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a coronavirus belongs to a family of viruses causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases, like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). A novel coronavirus is a strain previously unidentified in humans. Named COVID-19, this respiratory disease was first detected in late 2019 and has since spread throughout the world. On March 11, 2020 the WHO designated COVID-19 as a global pandemic.
For more information, please consult our research summary.
How has COVID-19 affected Canada and Canada’s health care workers?
Cases have now been confirmed across Canada, and the numbers are escalating daily as testing for COVID-19 ramps up. Increasingly, health care workers are being exposed to the virus and many have tested positive.
What are the symptoms associated with COVID-19?
Novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory infection. Symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat and headache. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.
What is the CFNU doing?
The CFNU is actively engaged with the Public Health Agency of Canada, and public health offices across Canada, to protect the health and safety of nurses – and by extension the public. We want to ensure that infection prevention and control measures for health care workers incorporate the precautionary principle, which states that reasonable efforts to protect health care workers should not await scientific certainty. Given the emerging science with respect to COVID-19 and the ongoing uncertainty regarding how, and when, the virus is spread, it is CFNU’s position that:
- All nurses and frontline health care workers at risk in their area of work (based on an organizational infectious disease risk assessment) with the potential for exposure, and/or who are caring for a suspected or confirmed 2019 novel coronavirus patient, should be provided, fitted for and have access to a NIOSH-approved N95 or greater respirator (e.g., powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR)), and trained, tested and drilled to safely don and doff it by the employer.
- The CFNU recognizes the critical importance of the point-of-care risk assessment (PCRA), an activity that is based on the individual nurses’ professional judgment (i.e., knowledge, skills, reasoning and education). All nurses and frontline health care workers at risk in their area of work are required to perform a point-of-care risk assessment. If a nurse feels the protective equipment they have been provided is inadequate, given the patient acuity, environment or other factors, they should be able to access a higher level of PPE.
- At a minimum, as required of and by employers, all employees must also be equipped with personal protective equipment for contact and droplets precautions for suspected, presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19, including gloves, eye protection (face shield and goggles), isolation gowns and surgical/procedural masks, for which they must also be trained and drilled in safe use.
- Airborne precautions and the use of respirators N95 or higher must be mandated at all times in clinical areas considered aerosol-generating medical procedures ‘hot spots’ (e.g.: intensive care units (ICU), emergency rooms, operating rooms, post-anaesthetic care units and trauma centres) that are managing COVID-19 patients.
- STOP if you do not have the required personal protective equipment or properly fitted respiratory protection, and/or have not been trained, drilled and tested in its care, use and limitations, and speak with your manager or supervisor; document the situation and copy your union and Joint OH&S Committee representative.
- REPORT any health and safety concerns, including gaps in adequate protocols and procedures and/or communications, access to PPE, fit-testing and/or training or other health and safety concerns to your manager or supervisor, copying your Joint OH&S Committee and your union.
Questions or concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your union or a member of your joint occupational health & safety committee.