Washington Governor Jay Inslee has announced additional requirements for health and dental facilities to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.
“With the increase in COVID outbreaks in healthcare facilities, it is important that we continue to protect patients and health workers from contracting COVID in a place where they feel safe, especially as we see COVID activity increasing dramatically across the state,” Inslee said.
Proclamation 20-24.2 amends the existing non-urgent medical and dental procedures proclamation to increase requirements on personal protective equipment (PPE) use, testing of healthcare professionals, notifications of outbreaks, and distancing requirements in non-clinical areas of healthcare facilities.
According to the proclamation, before providing non-urgent care, dental practices must:
- Ensure PPE supplies are sufficient for treatment
- Update infection control policies based on current best practices issued by government agencies
- Use teledentistry as permitted by law
- Implement policies for non-punitive employee leave
- Post signage encouraging hand hygiene and other infection control practices
- Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for COVID-19 screening
- Limit the number of visitors
- Require patients to wear face coverings when possible
- Maintain strict physical distancing
- Frequently clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces
- Notify local health authorities when transmission in the practice is suspected
- Exclude employees infected with or with known or suspected high-risk exposure from the workplace
- Provide or support testing for employees who have signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19
- Educate patients about COVID-19
The proclamation further defines non-urgent services as “those that, if delayed, are not anticipated to cause harm to the patient within 90 day” and adds that the decision to provide any care should be weighed against key criteria in considering potential harm to a patient’s health and well-being, including:
- Expected advance of disease process
- The possibility that delay results in more complex surgery or treatment
- Increased loss of function
- Continuing or worsening of significant or severe pain
- Deterioration of the patient’s condition or overall health
- Expectations that delay would result in a less positive ultimate outcome
- Expectations that untreated conditions would leave the patient more vulnerable to COVID-19 contraction or resultant disease morbidity and/or mortality
- A lack of available or appropriate non-surgical alternatives
- Co-morbidities or risk factors for morbidity or mortality if the patient is inflicted with COVID-19 after the procedure is performed
Also, the proclamation says that diagnostic imaging, procedures, and testing should continue in all settings based on clinical judgment using the same definitions of harm and criteria.
Meanwhile, fewer than 1% of dentists have tested positive for COVID-19, indicating that current infection control protocols in dental settings are working, according to the ADA. Also, the ADA is encouraging the continuation of dental treatment during the pandemic and called dental care essential to overall health.
The proclamation, which goes into effect on December 3, 2020, will remain in effect through Washington’s COVID-19 state of emergency.