While it is unknown if Coronavirus (CoVID19) can be spread to non-humans, we know that a common cold can be deadly for chimps. The care of our resident chimpanzees has to come before any other considerations. As such we are erring on the side of caution and have issued new guidelines for staff, volunteers, and upcoming events including a comprehensive CoVID 19 Prevention Protocol.
Out of an abundance of caution we have made the decision to close the sanctuary to public events including upcoming VIP tours. A decision about Chimpathon will be made shortly. We will follow all suggestions from local health officials as well as any government agencies to ensure that our resident chimpanzees remain safe.
General preventive measures we are taking include:
Staff and volunteers who have symptoms of illness must stay home and not report to the sanctuary until they are cleared by a doctor or their symptoms subside. STC is making special accommodations to our sick leave policy to ensure no staff are penalized for erring on the side of caution.
Anyone with symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath is requested to see a health care provider (don’t ignore it and think it’s just a cold) and is required to stay away from the chimps! Do not come to STC if you are at all sick or if anyone in your household is sick.
Frequent hand washing is very important in preventing diseases of all sorts when hands are not gloved. Please wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, remembering to include all surfaces of the hands, not just the palmar surface. Wash after using the toilet, before and after meals (since your hands would touch or are close to your face when you eat), after coughing or sneezing, as soon as you arrive at work and just before you leave work for the day.
Extra precautions on campus include:
- Personal Protection Equipment: All chimpanzee care staff or personnel with access to chimpanzees or their food, medication, enrichment (food and non-food) or housing, will wear masks and exam gloves at all times when working with chimpanzees or with any items which will be consumed or handled by chimpanzees. This includes when personnel (employees or volunteers) are inside chimpanzee housing for cleaning, feeding, enriching, medicating, making health assessments, making repairs, training, feeding, etc. This also includes personnel involved in food or food enrichment preparation in the kitchen. There is no reason, at this time, to prevent the PPE from being used in multiple buildings except in the buildings under pre-existing quarantine (Alice, Tanya and Tapioca). Face shields are not required at this time except in the aforementioned quarantined buildings.
- Foot Baths: Foot baths will be placed at all entrances to chimpanzee housing as well as the kitchen, food storage areas and the outside entry points to the veterinary medication room and procedure room. The disinfectant in the foot baths must be replaced first thing every morning, before the midday meeting and at the end of the day (due to need for the evening shift to deliver evening medications). The disinfectant solution must be refreshed as needed during the day to prevent evaporation. We are looking into creating a dual bath protocal (wash with water first and then disinfectant).
- Keep Footwear Separated: Do not wear shoes or other footwear worn at work outside the sanctuary.
- Dispose of PPE Properly: All used PPE must be placed in receptacles which can be tightly closed to prevent the PPE from falling out or blowing away. All trash receptacles containing used PPE will be placed in the dumpster by the close of business and not held over for disposal by evening or overnight staff.
- Personal hygiene: Keep your hands off your face, including when you wear gloves. Touching your face with your gloved hands contaminates the glove(s). Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Use hand sanitizer after using the toilet. It will be provided in every bathroom on campus. Cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throw the tissue away in a closed trash receptacle.
Please understand there is no reason to panic but since we don’t know the effect of CoVID19 on chimpanzees (minor illness versus deadly) and we know there are chimpanzees at the sanctuary with preexisting conditions which could increase their risk level if exposed to CoVID 19, we are responding with an abundance of caution. Thank you to all our staff, volunteers, and supporters for their care and concern.