The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges across the board for the protection against transmission and infection of the virus. While healthcare regulations have long been strict, we are finding that the pandemic has thrown the modern world into almost uncharted territory. Some of the best practices that have been put into place are showing that they are working. During this critical time additional safety practices have been instituted for medical waste disposal to help to fight primary and secondary exposure and transmission of COVID-19.
Medical waste can be generated from a variety of industries including but not limited to: healthcare facilities, veterinarian offices, pharmacies, tattoo parlors, research facilities and laboratories, autopsy facilities, trauma scene waste practitioners, and funeral homes. Any of these locations may come into contact with medical waste that has been contaminated by COVID-19 as well as individuals that may be asymptomatic or infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Due to the various known transmission methods of COVID-19, the recommendations by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) for medical waste management is to follow current routine procedures with the addition of wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) that is considered to be standard for infection control. Any individuals that may be within a close distance of potential disease carriers should use airborne protective equipment.
COVID-19 waste from patients that have been infected is currently handled using standard RMW (regulated medical waste) procedures. These procedures include packaging and labeling all medical waste according to OSHA standards. While the CDC has not established any specific rules for protection against the transmission of SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronaviruses), healthcare facilities may take additional precautions by wearing PPE, including face masks, and ensuring that all containers that may hold medical waste infected with COVID-19 is securely distanced from all individuals while awaiting pickup by a medical waste management company.
Credible medical waste disposal companies are requiring their drivers to wear PPE, which include airborne safety masks and to have antiviral sanitizer disinfectants in their vehicles. Transportation of COVID-19 infected medical waste from the storage room of the facility is required to be in compliant and labeled containers and handled in the standard method of sterilization and/or disposal.
RMW (regulated medical waste) is currently treated and/or decontaminated using critical guidelines for the reduction of microbes that may be in the waste. The procedures used for treatment and/or decontamination allows the by-products to be considered safe for handling and disposal. Each state has preset guidelines and regulations for the treatment process which can include autoclaving, incineration, grinding/shredding, chemical disinfectants, and energy-based (radiowave or microwave) treatments. All individuals that are involved in being within close proximity of any potential COVID-19 infected medical waste should use current procedures for their state. Best practices should also include wearing PPE, including breathing masks.
Reliable medical waste management companies will have all up-to-date state and federal requirement changes that may occur for the COVID-19 condition.
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