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ALM Provides Guidance on Unique COVID-19 Issues

Dealing with gown shortages, home scrub washing, hotel laundry guidance provided

RICHMOND, Ky. — The Association for Linen Management (ALM) has provided interim guidance for unique issues related to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes dealing with gown shortages, healthcare staff washing scrubs/uniforms at home and hotel laundries not familiar with processing exposed textiles.

GOWNS

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a significant weakness in the healthcare system: the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically protective gowns, shares ALM.

Despite efforts to resolve this situation, healthcare facilities continue to face PPE shortages to the point where some healthcare professionals report there are no gowns available to them for use.

ALM collaborated with three of its vendor members, Medline Industries Inc., UNX Inc. and Environmental Infection Prevention LLC, to examine and test the feasibility of reprocessing disposable PPE gowns as a possible solution to the temporary nationwide shortage.

The Interim Guidance for Processing Single-Use Gowns in Response to Product Shortages during COVID-19 is a stop-gap measure designed to supplement the provision of gowns to provide an alternative to the absence of any cover apparel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wash formula and process is basic guidance for laundries to provide their customers with a clean product of previously worn, single-use gowns manufactured initially as ANSI/AAMI Level 1, 2, 3, and/or 4 gowns.

The guidance does not produce a gown that meets the required barrier standards for which it was initially manufactured and may be labeled, and no gown provided under the guidance should be used in a surgical procedure, per recommendation from the United States Food and Drug Administration.

HOME SCRUB/UNIFORM WASHING

While the commercial laundry process following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines has been tested and proven to provide clean, safe textiles for patients within the hospital environment, the home laundry process deals with myriad differences in fabrics, detergents, wash temperatures and more.

Available research shows the virus only lives on fabrics for a short period of time, but, out of an abundance of caution, ALM has chosen to compile instructions to best ensure the home wash process is effective for washing personal apparel after being in a setting possibly exposing the wearer to COVID-19.

The Interim Guidance for Healthcare Personnel Home Washing Personal Uniform/Scrub Apparel During the COVID-19 Pandemic is available on ALM's website, under COVID-19 Resources.

The association stresses that this guidance is not to be used for laundering any textile provided by employers as PPE. General work clothes (e.g., uniforms, pants, shirts or blouses) not intended to function as protection against a hazard are not considered to be PPE.

HOTEL LAUNDRIES

In addressing the COVID-19 outbreak, healthcare providers, emergency personnel and other public service personnel have sought alternative lodging arrangements to self-isolate from their families when not working.

To help hotel laundries that are not familiar with procedures for large quantities of possibly exposed textiles, ALM has compiled interim guidance to assist the industry, addressing two major points: 

  1. The management and laundering of bedding/sheeting and bathroom/terry products used in the care of COVID-19-exposed healthcare personnel (HCP) and other potentially exposed persons, as needed. 
  2. Maintaining a safe workplace. 

This guidance may be subject to updates when additional information becomes available and at no time should it supersede any state or local regulations that may be more stringent in regard to laundry and linen processing and handling.

Included with the guidance are printable signs and handouts for the hotels to post in their laundry area, a template for notifying guests of amended procedures at the hotel for textiles, and a link to a free online training from ALM about Universal Precautions for hotel staff. 

The full guidance packets, as well as other COVID-19 textile information, is available on ALM’s COVID-19 Resources page, available at ALMnet.org/COVID-19.