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When to quarantine, safely treat patients and close the office: CDA answers dentists' top 5 questions about COVID-19 exposure

December 21, 2020 21601

Quick Summary:

CDA’s new top 5 frequently asked questions on COVID-19 exposure answer dentists' questions about quarantine requirements, when to pay staff and for how long, when it is safe to treat patients who were diagnosed with or had close contact with someone who had COVID-19, and more.

As COVID-19 cases rise daily in California with experts warning of a surge that will continue into the new year, CDA wants to ensure member dentists are aware of all the resources that CDA’s Clinical Care Workgroup and Practice Support team have developed specifically to help them practice in the current environment while complying with Cal/OSHA and other regulations.

Recent calls to CDA Practice Support reveal that dentists are unclear about quarantine requirements. Members also have inquired about when they would need to close the practice due to COVID-19 exposures or outbreaks ― and those conversations indicate that some offices are closing prematurely.

In some phone calls, dentists are just learning about a new Cal/OSHA regulation that prohibits them from requiring their employees to provide a negative COVID-19 test prior to returning to work. Or that, beginning Jan. 1, 2021, they must provide to their employees a written notice of potential exposure to COVID-19 as required by state law.

Practice Support analysts are available to CDA members for one-one-one support, but resources are always available on-demand, 24/7, to assist dentists and their teams, including a new FAQ that answers the top five COVID-19-related questions members have now. Here’s a quick summary of those resource and where to go to find them. 

Members’ current top five COVID-19-related questions answered

Dentists can read CDA’s top 5 FAQ on COVID-19 exposure for answers to all of the following:

  1. What are the quarantine requirements for a dentist or staff who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been exposed to a COVID-19-positive individual, either inside or outside of the dental practice?
  2. Do I need to pay my staff during quarantine and for how long?
  3. When is it safe to treat a patient who was diagnosed with COVID-19 (with or without symptoms) or who had close contact with an individual with COVID-19 (with or without symptoms)?
  4. Under what circumstances would I need to close my practice due to COVID-19 exposures or an outbreak?
  5. What do we tell patients if there’s been a possible close-contact exposure?

For example, an office closure will occur only when one of three conditions is met: (1) The office cannot operate due to staff or provider shortages resulting from illness or quarantine, (2) the local health department orders the closure due to a workplace outbreak defined as more than three sick employees within 14 days and (3) Cal/OSHA finds dangerous conditions exist at the workplace.

In addition to the FAQ, a new flowchart shows dentist employers how to pay employees who have contracted or may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the dental office. 

COVID-19 reporting requirements, training

The Reporting Symptoms/Positive COVID-19 Test Results was published in June and includes an online training module for dental team members, a reporting flowchart and related required forms and notices. 

  • The training module explains key concepts and steps to take when a patient or employee reports symptoms of or exposure to COVID-19 or a positive test diagnosis. The training is intended for all dental team members who are responsible for patient and employee COVID-19 screening. The presentation combines quizzes with audio instruction to provide staff with the knowledge required to comply with regulatory requirements and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Specifically, participants will learn when to:

  1. Record patient and employee symptoms, exposure, test results and pertinent dates.
  2. Provide notice of potential exposure.
  3. Perform contact tracing.
  4. Identify close contacts.
  5. Direct an employee to quarantine and seek medical advice.
  6. Contact a claims administrator.
  7. Contact the local health department and Cal/OSHA.
  8. Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for returning to work.

Identification of close contacts is a very important piece of the training, particularly when determining whether there is a need to close the practice, said CDA Regulatory Compliance Analyst Teresa Pichay.

“Be sure to collect and record certain information from the reporting party, and then to do an assessment of whether there were close contacts. If there are no close contacts, it may not be                   necessary to close the practice,” she said. 

Most participants working at an average pace can complete the training module in 10 to 15 minutes.

  • The Reporting Symptoms/Positive Test for COVID-19 Flowchart walks dentists through the steps of managing patients or employees who report symptoms of COVID-19 or exposure to a COVID-19-positive individual. The flowchart is color-coded and easy to follow with clear directions for managing positive and negative diagnoses and contacting the appropriate entity.
  • The reporting form bundle includes forms for tracking employees’ and patients’ COVID-19 symptoms of, exposure to or a positive test for COVID-19, as well as the required Notice of Potential Exposure to COVID-19. 

Find all COVID-19 resources for dentists in the COVID-19 Resource Center.