coronavirus covid-19 a medical waste management personnel carries a trash bag bearing a hazardous material symbol

Given the current lack of sufficient testing equipment, there is much uncertainty around the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).  While government agencies are issuing guidelines on citizens’ safety, industries nationwide are battling the pandemic in their own way. But for some industries, the contagion is more clear-and-present than others – the medical waste management sector for example.

The job of waste (both industrial and municipal) and recyclable material collection has already been ranked one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States due to the toxins and contaminants workers may be exposed to. Add to this the threat of a virus that nobody fully understands yet. Health and safety concerns about handling medical waste become even more magnified.

Here are the latest developments emerging from agencies and stakeholders working within the medical waste management industry. Below also includes the broad directives they are issuing to ensure protection of their employees:

Handling Medical Waste in the Midst of a Countrywide Pandemic

There are special treatment processes already in place to handle regulated medical waste and render it harmless before final disposal. At this time, agencies are not issuing extra safety protocols for handling `special’ medical waste generated by the Coronavirus outbreak. This could include needles, pathological wastes, gauze, gloves, or gowns contaminated with bodily fluids of infected patients.

According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control And Prevention), any medical waste coming from hospitals that are treating Coronavirus patients is no different from other medical centers. The virus is susceptible to the routine neutralizing measures taken and therefore requires no additional disinfection.

“Healthcare facilities should ensure their waste management providers are following proper procedures for managing the waste and have ample capacity and contingency plans to ensure continued medical waste management service, should the number of patients in the United States increase dramatically,” said Selin Hoboy, VP of government affairs and compliance at Stericycle, in a recent interview.

Stericycle is an organization that specializes in collecting and disposing of regulated substances such as medical waste, pharmaceuticals, and hazardous waste. They are in constant contact with the CDC to stay on top of the Coronavirus outbreak and devise ways to keep healthcare facilities and quarantine sites secure and under control. “Recent news reports from China have indicated that there is a backlog of medical waste requiring treatment. Healthcare facilities in the US should work with their waste management providers as a preventative measure,” Hoboy concluded.


* If you have any questions or concerns about medical waste management at this time, you can email Stericyle here.