International Infection Prevention Week has been spearheaded annually by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, highlighting the importance of infection prevention among healthcare workers and administrators, patients, and legislators alike.

But IIPW has a more profound meaning in 2020 as infection prevention has never been more important. Its goal this year is to shine a light on the invaluable role infection preventionists have played in protecting patients and healthcare workers on the front line from COVID-19.

The theme of the week, launched in 1986 and lasting Oct. 18-24, is “We Love Our IPs.” The global pandemic has emphasized the immeasurable impact of infection preventionists as they fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In normal years, infection preventionists work to thwart healthcare-associated infections in facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes. Doing that job in the era of COVID-19 is a different challenge entirely.

Essential responsibilities of infection preventionists these days includes securing PPE for healthcare workers and making sure they wear it properly, developing plans for hospital surge capacity, and ensuring other routine visits can continue. IPs prepare COVID-19 units in hospitals and alternate care sites, develop plans for hospital surge capacity, facilitate safer care in nursing homes, and consult with schools and businesses to assure the safest resumption of in-person activities.

All of this is done while evaluating and implementing guidelines that are frequently changing.

“Infection preventionists form the backbone of risk mitigation efforts around the country, but because their goal is to prevent something from happening, it’s harder to see what they do,” Connie Steed, APIC 2020 president, said in a press release. “COVID-19 has shown the world how crucial IPs are in keeping our communities safe. During IIPW, APIC will lead efforts to recognize and celebrate the critically important work of IPs.”

APIC will post infection preventionists’ stories and other shareable social media content throughout IIPW to give doctors, nurses, and patients the chance to offer their gratitude.

Consisting of nearly 16,000 members, APIC’s mission is to develop and direct infection prevention and control programs that save lives and improve the bottom line for healthcare facilities. APIC advances its mission through patient safety, education, implementation science, competencies and certification, advocacy, and data standardization.

The organization has produced 10 COVID-19 factsheets and is sponsoring a series of wellness events to help IPs recharge and rejuvenate as communities gear up for surges of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu.