COVID-19 FAQs: Elective surgeries and “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors”

COVID-19 FAQs: Elective surgeries and “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors”

With stay-at-home orders being relaxed and businesses starting to reopen, veterinarians may wonder how the changes will affect them. Here’s what veterinarians need to know about this stage of Colorado’s COVID-19 response.

  • What does the “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors” period mean?
    • The “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors” period in Colorado means that Coloradans are no longer ordered to stay home, but are strongly advised to stay at home. Critical businesses (including veterinary practices) are permitted to remain open and non-critical businesses are beginning to operate with restrictions in effect. In this stage of the state’s COVID-19 response, high levels of social distancing and mask-wearing are still strongly recommended. Click here to read details from the state about the Safer at Home period.
  • Are veterinarians permitted to do elective surgeries and procedures?
    • Yes. Elective surgeries and procedures were prohibited statewide from March 17 through April 26 in an effort to conserve PPE for human health care workers battling COVID-19. Elective surgeries and procedures are now permitted given the following stipulations outlined by Public Health Order 20 29, which was issued April 27 and extended multiple times — this Public Health Order currently expires July 24. 
  • What requirements do I need to meet to perform elective surgeries and procedures?
    • Per Public Health Order 20 29 (click here to read), the following requirements must be met prior to starting elective surgeries:
      • Facilities performing voluntary or elective surgeries and procedures must establish a plan to reduce or stop elective surgeries and procedures if there is a surge of COVID-19 infections in the county or municipality in which the facility is located. CDPHE will determine the conditions that constitute a surge.
      • Veterinarians should implement an enhanced cleaning process, including strict infection control policies as recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in pet care areas, waiting areas, and for other high touch surfaces.
      • Veterinarians should implement a universal symptom screening process for all staff, clients, and visitors upon arrival to the facility, and screening for pets prior to the initiation of treatment via telehealth. A sample form can be found here.
      • Veterinarians must adhere to social distancing precautions outlined below to minimize COVID-19 transmission (see below).
  • What recommendations do I need to follow for social distancing and to minimize COVID-19 exposure?
    • Per Public Health Order 20 29 (click here to read), veterinary practices must follow these social distancing guidelines at a minimum:
      • Implement patient scheduling to provide for social distancing, enhanced cleaning, sufficient time to change PPE, and to minimize aerosol contamination.
      • Continue to maximize telehealth and virtual office visits as much as possible.
      • Implement curbside or drop-off appointments for pets or patient treatment supplies to reduce exposure risk.
      • If clients must enter the practice, provide ample social distancing of 6 feet in waiting rooms, small spaces, and patient or pet care areas.
      • Implement online payment, billing, and touchless options when possible.
      • Provide staff with individual workspaces and equipment to avoid sharing desks and work tools when possible; if these surfaces or items must be shared, ensure frequent disinfection.
      • Implement viable methods to eliminate, reduce, or contain aerosol production during care.
      • Additionally, due to the statewide recommendation to wear masks when out in public, veterinary professionals must wear masks and should advise clients to wear masks when they are interacting with members of the practice team as well.
  • Do veterinary professionals need to wear masks?
    • Yes. Public Health Order 20-31 (click here to read) requires essential workers (including veterinary professionals) to wear medical or non-medical face coverings while working. Additionally, the order directs essential workers to wear gloves when in contact with customers or goods whenever possible.
  • Should I still try to conserve PPE?
    • Some human hospitals continue to report PPE shortages. Veterinarians and their teams must be thoughtful about their PPE usage and conserve when possible, provided that the conservation of PPE does not result in a health risk for the practice team, client, or patient.
  • What about euthanasia appointments?
    • A euthanasia appointment is a critical part of the journey between human and pet. While it is ultimately up to the professional judgment of the veterinarian, it is recommended that clients stay with their pets during euthanasia appointments and that veterinary professionals and clients both use masks and maintain as much social distance as possible during the appointment.
  • Is telehealth still permitted without first establishing a VCPR in person?

 



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