The American Heart Association released interim CPR guidelines to guide rescuers during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Guidelines address the ongoing need to provide optimal care to patients suffering cardiac arrest affording them the best chance at survival as well as to protect rescuers from the highly transmissible corona virus. Although we are in the midst of a pandemic with thousands of persons suffering or dying from the viral disease, cardiovascular disease is still the number 1 killer in the United States and during days of the pandemic, deaths from heart disease have been twice that of COVID-19.


The adult interim guidelines emphasize early chest compressions and rapid defibrillation by lay rescuers but make a distinction between household members and non-household bystanders.

  • Household members would have been exposed to the victim at home. Household members should perform at least hands-only CPR.
  • For a non-household rescuer, hands-only CPR should be started. A face mask or cloth placed over the mouth of the victim may reduce the risk of transmission although the evidence to support this recommendation is lacking.

For children the recommendations are slightly different as children suffer cardiac arrest more commonly from respiratory causes rather than primary cardiac events.

  • Household lay rescuers should perform immediate chest compressions and if a household member is willing and able, perform mouth-to-mouth breathing.
  • For a non-household rescuer, chest compressions should be performed.

Public Access Defibrillation

Defibrillation is not thought to increase the transmission of the disease. Lay rescuers should use an automated external defibrillator (AED) as soon as possible, if available.