COVID-19 FAQs: “Safer at Home” and elective surgeries

COVID-19 FAQs: “Safer at Home” and elective surgeries

On April 20, Colorado Governor Polis outlined details for what Coloradans can expect after the statewide stay-at-home order expires April 26. Here’s what it means for veterinarians.

  • What does the new “Safer at Home” period mean?
  • What areas in Colorado still have stay-at-home orders?
    • The city and county of Denver as well as Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, and Jefferson counties have extended their stay-at-home orders until May 8 (the Tri-County Health Department board voted to extend the stay-at-home order for Adams and Arapahoe counties but not Douglas County).
  • My county or city has extended its stay-at-home order. Am I still allowed to do elective surgeries and procedures?
    • Yes; the ban on elective surgeries was a statewide ban, not a county or municipality ban. However, you should contact your local health department to confirm and see if there are any other local considerations you need to take into account.
  • What guidelines should I follow when starting elective surgeries again?
    • Per Public Health Order 20 29 issued April 27 (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.
      • Professional judgement should be used to determine whether a case is urgent or non-urgent; veterinarians should postpone non-urgent cases in consultation with pet owners. Veterinarians should refer to the AVMA guidance in making this decision — click here to read the AVMA guidance.
      • 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 more below).
  • What recommendations do I need to follow for social distancing and to minimize COVID-19 exposure?
    • Per Public Health Order 20 29 issued April 27 (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. Governor Polis issued Executive Order D 2020 039 (click here to read) requiring essential workers (which includes 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. This order expires May 17, 2020.
  • Are there any procedures or surgeries that are not permitted?
    • Veterinarians are encouraged to consider postponement of elective surgeries or procedures that are expected to require pharmaceuticals or PPE in short supply.
  • Should I still try to conserve PPE?
    • Many 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?
    • At the time of publication, Executive Order D 2020 029 (click here to read), which addresses telehealth for veterinarians, expires April 30. This executive order temporarily permits veterinarians to establish a VCPR without an in-person examination. It is possible this order may be extended after April 30. CVMA will update this if more information becomes available.

 



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