I write to you at a dire time for public health and our profession. The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a severe public health threat, it is also a threat to our livelihood and that of our dental teams. I want to address two specific issues with you head-on: CDA’s efforts to acquire N95 masks and state and federal guidance on the length of time COVID-19 restrictions will be in place.
Roughly two weeks ago, CDA confirmed from the state of California that we would be able to take delivery of about 1 million 3M N95 masks from the state’s emergency stockpile. Though technically expired, these masks would provide useful protections as a stopgap measure for our members to provide emergency dental treatment to patients, plus provide some on-hand protections for when practices reopen. CDA staff took delivery of these masks from a state of California warehouse in Fresno. Four 53-foot semi-trucks paid for by CDA then transported these masks to the TDSC.com warehouse in Reno to await distribution to our deeply concerned members.
However, the afternoon after the masks arrived in Reno, the state of California directed CDA to return the masks. CDA was rebuffed in attempting several efforts to negotiate retaining some masks for emergency member use. Since then, state-deployed trucks have retrieved the masks. We were advised that the governor has broad emergency authorities allowing this to occur. This was very disappointing, especially in light of the extreme anxiety all of you – me included – have about proper PPE.
This unfortunate series of events highlights the gravity and fast pace of this crisis.
What is adding to the anxiety and concern around the COVID-19 pandemic is the varying guidance from public health officials and elected officials on how long closures and social distancing measures should be in place. California’s order remains open-ended, as does Oregon’s. Washington state has set a deadline of April 6. National guidance suggests April 12, however, some public health officials are questioning that deadline.
We are clearly in totally uncharted territory in this crisis, as is nearly every level of government. What I do know is that we are deeply engaged at every level – from local public health officials to the CDC and others in Washington D.C. I very much want to be able to provide a definitive return to work date, however what is clear is that we – along with all other public officials and otherwise – still do not have a definitive answer. Until that time, CDA’s guidance is to follow the California state shelter-in-place order, which has an open-ended date.
I do want to close with a measure of hope. Advocacy efforts through CDA and ADA in Washington D.C. are ensuring dentists will have flexibility around unemployment benefits, sick leave and tax credits for those efforts. In the latest relief package that’s being negotiated, we will ensure that long-term, low-interest or no-interest loans be made available. In addition, we are also working with dental benefit providers to create loan or grant programs that will allow them to maintain their provider networks and our members to keep seeing patients.
This is undoubtedly the single largest crisis we will all face in our lifetimes. The gravity of that is not lost on me, for I am also a small business owner, with my own private practice and employees. Let me assure you of this – we will continue to work in every way possible to help preserve your practices and organized dentistry overall. Our goal is for everyone to safely get back to work as soon as possible.
Be sure to check cda.org/covid19 for the latest information on CDA’s response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and follow us on social media to share these messages with your colleagues.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to your patients, your practice and the public’s health.
Richard Nagy, DDS
Periodontist, Santa Barbara, CA