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Face masks off for many Californians, but not in health care settings

Dental offices should continue to screen patients for COVID-19

March 02, 2022 12366

Quick Summary:

Dental-office staff and patients must continue to wear face masks, dental offices must continue to screen patients for COVID-19 prior to their appointments, and personnel involved in aerosol-generating procedures should continue to wear an N95 or N95-equivalent respirator when involved in aerosol-generating procedures in accordance with the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards.

Update Sept. 30, 2022: Masking requirement continues in California health care settings. Article updated to reflect the latest CDPH guidance on face masks and to reiterate that dental practices and other health care settings always must follow the stricter mandate.

Federal, state and local face mask guidance may continue to change in response to multiple factors, including reductions or increases in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sept. 23 loosened its universal masking recommendation for health care settings, but dental offices and other health care settings in California always must follow the stricter mandate, whether state, local or federal. In California, dentists, dental staff, patients and visitors, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status, must continue to wear face masks in compliance with current state guidance.

The California Department of Public Health's Sept. 20 guidance for the use of face masks states:

"In the following healthcare and long-term care indoor settings, masks are required for all individuals regardless of vaccination status. Surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit are highly recommended."

  • Healthcare Settings
  • Long Term Care Settings & Adult and Senior Care Facilities

Mask exemptions have not changed for certain individuals, such as those who are hearing-impaired, under age 2 or have certain medical or mental health conditions.

Dental offices must continue to screen patients for COVID-19 prior to their appointments, and personnel involved in aerosol-generating procedures should continue to wear an N95 or N95-equivalent respirator when involved in aerosol-generating procedures in accordance with the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards. 

CDA's FAQ on masking and screening requirements. Also access downloadable templates, posters and other resources to communicate face-covering and other requirements to patients. 

COVID-19 screening required, temperature-checks optional

CDA continues to hear from dentists who want to know if they are still required to screen patients for COVID-19. Temperature-checks are no longer required, but dental practices must continue to screen patients and visitors for COVID-19 in compliance with the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS. 

Teresa Pichay, CDA Practice Support regulatory compliance analyst, said now is not the time to ditch the office signage.

“Keep or refresh your notices about screening and mask requirements posted on your office door or near the entrance,” she advises practice owners. “Doing so may help you avoid confusion and confrontations and help you keep your focus on optimal patient care.”

In short, proper patient screening means (1) asking individuals how they are feeling and if they have experienced any illness, (2) asking individuals if they have been in close contact in the last few days with anyone who has COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, and (3) observing individuals for signs of illness.

CDA Practice Support’s patient screening resource explains exactly what COVID-19 screening in the dental office entails.