10 Aug Updated COVID FAQs-August 10, 2021
The spikes in new COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Delta variant have prompted an increase in the number of COVID-related calls to the IDA. Despite the new wave of cases, there have been very few changes in CDC guidance for health care providers. The IDA COVID Task Force encourages you to not drop your guard. Dental treatment has proven to be safe for patients and dental team members when recommended COVID protocols are consistently followed. Below are some of the questions the IDA has been receiving lately, as well as answers, best practices for members and their offices, and links to helpful details.
Are masks still required in dental offices?
Yes. Even after the May 14 CDC announcement that individuals fully vaccinated against COVID no longer needed to wear masks indoors, this recommendation did not apply to health care settings, including dental offices.
In late July, the CDC reversed course somewhat and recommended the reinstatement of masks indoors for everyone regardless of vaccine status, though the recommendation centered more specifically on current hot spots around the country. View the map below to view outbreaks around the U.S.
Are all staff required to wear masks in dental offices?
As with patients, the CDC recommendation for masks in health care settings also applies to all dental office staff, including non-clinical employees. The exception is in the office break area, providing that all staff present are vaccinated against COVID-19. Needless to say, appropriate PPE is always required during clinical procedures.
Are we still required to screen patients for COVID?
Screening patients for COVID is still highly recommended by the ADA and CDC. Office staff should check for fever, symptoms of COVID and recent exposure to others who have tested positive for COVID.
Can I open my reception area?
The ADA continues to recommend keeping reception areas closed, but this is a decision a dentist should make based on the needs of the local community. View the latest ADA recommendations.
A patient refused to come to our office unless both I and the hygienist were vaccinated. Can I share this information?
You can share the vaccine status of your employees with patients only with permission from the employees. It may also be helpful to inquire of the patient why he or she is so concerned about contracting COVID in the dental office, and if appropriate, to offer an early morning or late afternoon appointment so as to minimize contact with other patients.
Can I ask about patients’ vaccination status?
You may ask about vaccination status as part of your medical history and information process, provided that you ask all patients uniformly.
When will we be able to receive vaccine booster shots?
On July 8, the FDA and CDC issued a joint statement that due to the vaccines’ effectiveness at preventing severe illness and hospitalization, boosters were neither necessary nor approved at this time. The IDA and ADA will continue to keep members informed should boosters become recommended.
Do I have to pay my employees who miss work because of a Covid positive test or exposure?
No. The requirement to pay for employees for missed work due to Covid expired December 31, 2020.
Can I require that my employees receive the COVID vaccine?
Most likely yes, for those staff who treat patients directly, but see the ADA vaccine FAQs for guidance on non-clinical staff. View the ADA vaccine FAQs.
Do vaccinated staff members still have to get tested if they’ve been exposed to COVID?
The CDC still recommends that the staff member exposed to COVID get tested. However, quarantine is not necessary unless the vaccinated staff member tests positive or begins experiencing symptoms. Vaccinated staff who test positive, regardless of symptoms, should quarantine for 10 days.
What do I do if a staff member tests positive for COVID? Are there different protocols if the employee is fully vaccinated but still contracts COVID?
New CDC data shows that both the vaccinated and unvaccinated are able to transmit the virus, so regardless of vaccination status, the staff member should quarantine for 10 days. In addition, the ADA recommends contacting patients who may have been exposed to COVID from the infected staff member.