10 Mar Updated Guidance on Masks and Patient Screening
State and federal guidelines regarding masking and other COVID-19 precautions have been relaxed in recent weeks in light of the greatly reduced number of COVID infections and hospitalizations. In Indiana alone, daily infections have dropped by about 97 percent from their peak two months ago, and hospitalizations are down about 85 percent from their peak in late January.
This week the IDA consulted with the Indiana State Board of Health to verify that state recommendations mirror recent changes from the CDC. The ISDH confirmed that while enhanced infection control measures are still in place in treatment areas, dentists may use their professional judgment regarding masking in the office’s public areas such as the reception room. More details are outlined below.
Screening of Patients
While never explicitly required by law, activities such as temperature checks to screen patients for COVID are now considered optional and at the dentist’s discretion. Patients who feel ill for any reason should be encouraged to reschedule routine procedures.
Masking in Non-Treatment Areas
As with pre-screening guidelines, the masking policy for non-treatment areas of your office is at your discretion as a dentist. This policy applies to both patients and staff who are working outside of treatment rooms in your facility.
PPE in Treatment Rooms
One guideline that has of course not changed is the PPE requirement for clinical staff in treatment rooms. Dentists, hygienists and assistants should continue to wear appropriate PPE in treatment areas. Anyone other than the patient in a treatment room (for example, the parent of a young child or an interpreter) should also wear a mask.
Reviewing Community Levels of Transmission
You may find it helpful to use your county’s current COVID infection rate to determine your office’s procedures on patient screenings and masks. Both the CDC and the ISDH report COVID levels on a county-wide basis, though the two calculate and update these levels somewhat differently. Links to both websites are below: