As park and recreation professionals work towards a path to recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it is essential to take a thoughtful and methodical approach to reinstating operations that protects public health and safety. This section of the Path to Recovery Framework includes guidance on managing a positive case of COVID-19 amongst staff, visitors or program participants.

While taking preventative actions to reduce the risk of spread are a key part of safely reopening, it is also important to prepare for how to manage a positive case of COVID-19 amongst staff, park and recreation visitors, or program participants. While many of the decisions, including the need to temporarily close facilities or cancel programming, conduct contact tracing, or refer others to testing or self-isolation may be directed by the local or state public health department, your agency should be prepared with protocols and plans in place that address the following areas:

Immediate Reporting to Public Health Officials

Upon confirmation of a positive case of COVID-19, a critical step is to notify your local and state public health departments. These officials can help guide you through the process of managing a positive case, and in many cases, will direct necessary actions that must be taken to notify others who may have been exposed and make decisions about closure and reopening. Depending on the facility or type of programming where a confirmed case is reported, local public health departments may take a more hands on approach and conduct an inspection of the facility to better understand safety measures in place (most notably in licensed childcare facilities).

It is also critical to report any confirmed positive cases, as public health officials are tracking case counts, monitoring for new outbreaks, conducting contact tracing, and referring people to testing and self-quarantining. They are also in constant communications with healthcare providers to ensure that health systems and hospitals have the capacity to treat all patients in need of care.

Immediate Communications to Staff and the Public

Another important and immediate step is to inform staff, facility users and program participants that a confirmed positive case has been reported and exposure is possible. Transparency is crucial to maintaining trust with your staff and community members. A best practice is to prepare drafts and create templates for these communications and have them reviewed by health department officials. Key information to communicate and guiding principles are outlined below:

  • Communication should be clear, straightforward and ensure the privacy of the individual(s) that tested positive in accordance with HIPAA, ADA and other applicable federal and local laws.
  • Communication should be provided in a formal capacity (official letter, email, statement, etc.) documenting the case and actions taken. If possible, use multiple modes of communication to help ensure the message is received. You may also consider posting signs at the location where the positive case occurred if it is a location frequented by people for whom you may not have contact information (although, note below, that keeping an accurate record of people who visit your facilities is a key part of management during the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Communication should identify the actions you have taken – referring the individual(s) to seek appropriate medical attention, contacting local and state public health officials, self-isolation, enhanced cleaning and disinfection of facility, new health screening protocols, etc.
  • Communication should document if others may have had potential exposure, if contact tracing is occurring, and recommendations on what those who may have been exposed should do.
    • CDC recommends that individuals who have had close contact (<6 feet) for greater than 15 minutes should be notified of exposure and take the following preventative actions:
      • Stay home until 14 days after last exposure and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others at all times
      • Self-monitor for symptoms
        • Check temperature twice a day
        • Watch for fever, cough, or shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19
      • Avoid contact with people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19
      • Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop
  • Communication should reiterate the preventative and protective measures in place including physical distancing, wearing face coverings, cleaning and disinfection, hand washing, health screenings, etc.

Sample Communication Templates

Conduct Contact Tracing

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, It has been critical to maintain an accurate record of all facility users and program participants in the event you need to provide contact information to public health contact tracers or support contact tracing efforts. Drop-in programs may be more challenging, but it is still advised to make every effort to collect a name and phone number for all individuals attending programs. Following a confirmed positive case, you may need to provide contact information to public health officials, or support and conduct contact tracing on your own. Individuals that have been exposed to a positive case, meaning they’ve had direct and close contact (<6 feet) for greater than 15 minutes, will need to be contacted and provided with guidance on how to proceed.

Some park and recreation agencies have begun to dedicate staff time to support contact tracing efforts. Contact tracing training and resources are available from CDC and other organizations.

Cleaning and Disinfection After a Positive Case

While it is critical to have cleaning and disinfection practices in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, additional deep cleaning and disinfection may be warranted following a confirmed positive case. Professionals should follow CDC’s guidance for cleaning and disinfection after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 has been in your facility:

  • Close off areas visited by the ill persons. Open outside doors and windows and use ventilating fans to increase air circulation in the area. Wait 24 hours or as long as practical before beginning cleaning and disinfection.
  • Cleaning staff should clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment (like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines) used by the ill persons, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
  • If it has been more than 7 days since the person with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.

Reiterate How Staff and Public Can Prevent Exposure

Following a positive case, reinforce the preventative measures that staff and the public should take while at home, while using facilities, and while participating in programming:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid close contact
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect
  • Monitor your health daily

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