COVID-19 is a new disease caused by a coronavirus. The virus is thought to spread when a person who is infected with the virus speaks, sneezes, or coughs when in close (within 6 feet) contact with another person. It is also possible that a person could become infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. There is evidence that an infected person who has no symptoms or has not yet developed symptoms can spread the virus to others, which is called asymptomatic transmission.
Our best community and individual defense against COVID-19 is washing our hands frequently, avoiding touching our eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding being around sick people, and physical distancing, especially by staying at home. In addition, there may be a benefit from using cloth face coverings when in public to reduce asymptomatic transmission.
Pharmacists and pharmacy workers have been designated “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.” Pharmacy staff can minimize their risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 and reduce the risk for customers by using the principles of infection prevention and control and physical distancing.
When Serving Customers:
- Use calming and reassuring language when customers ask for information.
- Ask sick customers to stay home and send a well family member or friend to pick up their medicine.
- Minimize physical contact with customers and between customers. Maintain physical distancing (6 feet between individuals) for people entering the pharmacy as much as possible.
- Limit the number of customers in the pharmacy at any given time to prevent crowding.
- Place a plastic shield in front of dispensing areas to shield against droplets.
- Place marks on the ground to instruct waiting customers to remain 6 feet back from the counter, other customer interfaces, and from other customers and pharmacy staff.
- Establish a process for older adults and at-risk customers to pick up medications without waiting in line, if feasible.
- Recommend that customers use the drive-thru window if available for prescriptions and healthcare supplies. Curbside delivery could be utilized if there is no drive-thru to minimize exposure.
- Consider offering home delivery service or mailing prescriptions, if feasible.
- Recommend customers wear a cloth face covering when in the pharmacy.
- Regularly clean and disinfect door handles, counters, customer waiting areas, credit/debit card devices, and other spaces where public interaction occurs with an EPA-approved disinfectant. It is recommended to wipe and disinfect the counter after each customer.
- Place alcohol-based hand sanitizer next to the cash register or check out area so people can sanitize their hands after using common items like pens and credit/debit card devices.
- Close self-serve blood pressure units.
- While the Board of Pharmacy has no authority to waive any requirements by a third-party payer, the Board has no issue with a customer giving a pharmacy member authority to sign the customer’s name in their presence for receipt of a prescription.
For Pharmacy Staff:
- Ensure staff engage in frequent hand hygiene (i.e. routinely washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds). Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Ensure staff self-monitor for illness by checking for fever, respiratory, and other symptoms listed by the CDC. Any staff member exhibiting flu-like systems or respiratory illness should stay at home. Any staff member who develops symptoms while at work should go home.
- Staff should avoid touching items that have been handled by customers, such as insurance cards. If items must be touched, staff should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer afterwards.
- Encourage prescribers to submit prescription orders by telephone or electronically so that staff do not have to handle paper prescriptions.
- Have staff wear a facemask or cloth face covering when in the pharmacy.
- Point-of-care services (immunization, measurement of blood pressure, etc.) should be avoided for customers with respiratory symptoms and postponed if not urgent for those without symptoms. If point-of-care services are carried out, the customer should wear a facemask or cloth face covering. Staff performing such services should wear PPE as appropriate and follow proper hand hygiene.
- Pharmacists providing medication management services and other services that do not require face-to-face encounters should make every effort to use telephone, telehealth, or tele-pharmacy strategies.
- Please refer to Cal/OSHA Guidance on Requirements to Protect Workers from Coronavirus for more information on safe work practices.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Considerations for Pharmacies during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission
California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA)
International Pharmaceutical Federation Information and Interim Guidance for Pharmacists and the Pharmacy Workforce
- Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 PAandemic: Information and interim guidelines for pharmacists and the pharmacy workforce (PDF)