There have been changes in mask mandates from the Florida governor and mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those who are fully vaccinated
against COVID-19. However, it is important to note that there have been no recent changes in guidance for health care settings, including dental offices.
We know that masks and face shields will continue to be worn in dental treatment rooms and operatories; however, the FDA has received inquiries from members regarding waiting rooms, consultation rooms, break areas, etc. Be sure to get your team’s feedback prior to making changes, as many employee concerns have stemmed from lack of communication within the office. As we have consistently stated, the FDA recommends that you use your medical judgment about what you believe to be best for your patients and staff.
Some key questions and their answers:
What does organized dentistry advise for dentists in response to CDC and OSHA recommendations?
The ADA has updated its evidence-based guidance. Released July 2021, a specially developed toolkit, “Update to Office Procedures During COVID-19,” walks dentists through necessary safety procedures such as staff and patient screenings, hazard assessments and cleaning protocols.
What guidance has the CDC issued for health care personnel while at work?
The CDC’s health care recommendations were last updated on April 27 and apply to all health care facilities, including dental offices. The CDC guidance does state, “In general, fully vaccinated health care personnel should continue to wear [personal protective equipment] while at work.” This applies to actively treating patients.
Can I require masks in the waiting room?
Yes. Because dental offices are private businesses, you can require masks in the waiting room or other common areas.
What if we have a “mask optional” policy in the waiting room but a patient isn’t comfortable with it?
Making masks optional in your waiting room doesn’t prohibit patients from wearing them. Encourage patients to wear masks if that’s what they prefer. Also, nearly all practices have systems for patients to wait in their cars rather than the waiting room. Consider offering this as an option for patients who aren’t vaccinated or don’t feel comfortable in the waiting room.
Do employees need to wear masks and social distance in the breakroom?
If everyone on staff is fully vaccinated, there is no longer a need to wear masks or socially distance in break rooms. If there are individuals who are not vaccinated, there should be more caution. The CDC states:
“… fully vaccinated health care personnel (HCP) could dine and socialize together in break rooms and conduct in-person meetings without source control or physical distancing. If unvaccinated HCP are present, everyone should wear [personal protective equipment] and unvaccinated HCP should physically distance from others.”
- Can I ask employees if they’re vaccinated for COVID-19?
Yes, employers can ask employees if they have been vaccinated. In fact, employers can require employees to be vaccinated. For additional information about the legal and human resources intricacies related to this question, please read this Today's FDA article.
- Isn’t there legislation that protects health care workers from COVID-related lawsuits? Yes, civil liability protections against COVID-19-related claims for health care providers, including dentists, went into effect on March 29 and will apply retroactively. The legislation (CS/SB 72) protects health care workers who have been making their best efforts to protect patients, an example of which may be following CDC guidelines. Read more in the “Sine Die” edition of Capital Report.
The American Dental Association
released information about COVID-19 screenings and personal protective equipment, which includes Q&As about infection control and prevention.
If you have questions that are not answered on the COVID-19 section of the FDA's website, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the ongoing pandemic, we know that there are a lot of unknowns for you both personally and professionally. The Florida Dental Association is here to be your constant support and guidance through this time of uncertainty by monitoring activity and advocating for you at the state and national levels, alerting you of any changes that may affect you and providing expert advice from our team of professionals, so you can continue to focus on your family, patients and practice.