BCD: Current CDC Recommendations on the Use of Eye Protection by Health Care Personnel

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Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Prevention Program

Current CDC Recommendations on the Use of Eye Protection by Health Care Personnel

CDC continues to update its COVID-19 infection control guidance for health care personnel (HCP) as more is learned about COVID-19 transmission and as conditions and rates of transmission change over time. CDC's main webpage on COVID-19 infection control guidance for HCP currently highlights the following statement regarding use of eye protection by all HCP:

Use of eye protection is recommended in areas with moderate to substantial community transmission. For areas with minimal to no community transmission, eye protection is considered optional, unless otherwise indicated as part of standard precautions.

In its Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Healthcare Personnel During the COVID-19 Pandemic, CDC notes that, "eye protection should be worn during patient care encounters to ensure the eyes are also protected from exposure to respiratory secretions," and that "transmission from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection can occur in healthcare settings, particularly in areas with moderate to substantial community transmission."

CDC describes its community transmission level categories as follows:

  • Substantial community transmission: Large scale community transmission, including communal settings (e.g., schools, workplaces)
  • Minimal to moderate community transmission: Sustained transmission with high likelihood or confirmed exposure within communal settings and potential for rapid increase in cases
  • No to minimal community transmission: Evidence of isolated cases or limited community transmission, case investigations underway; no evidence of exposure in large communal setting

CDC's COVID Data Tracker website includes information about the prevalence data used to categorize communities based on transmission level, and includes a map showing current county-level data. As of the period March 13–19, 2021, 68 of Wisconsin's 72 counties were categorized as having at least moderate community transmission levels.

Since even moderate levels of community transmission can lead to exposures and a quick rise in cases in communal settings, health care facilities in most Wisconsin counties should continue to follow CDC guidance on the universal use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including eye protection, at this time. 

In addition, facilities should consider where their employees, residents, and visitors reside when considering a change to eye protection practices. Even if the county where a facility is located has low community transmission levels, if surrounding counties have moderate or substantial community transmission risk, this may also impact a facility's risk assessment and decision-making about the use of eye protection. 

Special Note for Long-Term Care Facilities

Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) should note that the data and "county positivity rate" categories CMS refers to in its guidance for SNFs on routine staff testing and visitation are different from what CDC uses for its guidance on PPE for all health care facilities. CMS utilizes NHSN data as reported by skilled nursing facilities to categorize county positivity rates as "green," "yellow," or "red." Thus, SNFs located in CMS-designated "green" counties may still be in areas where moderate community-level transmission is occurring.