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How to establish a new travel policy for the dental practice during the pandemic

Updated April 12, 2021: CDC removes COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travelers

August 21, 2020 12010

Quick Summary:

The new guidance states that people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine can travel safely within the U.S. Fully vaccinated travelers don't need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it and do not need to self-quarantine, according to CDC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month issued updated guidance for domestic travelers who are either fully vaccinated or unvaccinated against COVID-19. The new guidance could be useful for practice owners who wish to develop or update travel policies in the dental office. 

The new guidance states that people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine can travel safely within the U.S. The CDC continues to warn that travel can increase the chances of getting and spreading the coronavirus and urges people to delay traveling until they have been fully vaccinated.

A person is considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it and do not need to self-quarantine, according to CDC.

If a person who has not been vaccinated must travel, CDC recommends getting tested before and after the trip and quarantining for 7 days after travel, even if their viral test is negative.

Whether fully vaccinated or unvaccinated, CDC recommends travelers continue to take the following steps when traveling:

  • Wear a mask over the nose and mouth
  • Avoid crowds and practice social distancing
  • Wash hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after travel

Incorporating pre-travel inquiries and travel advisories in the dental office

With travel restrictions rapidly changing, it may be difficult for practice owners to assess how an employee’s vacation could compromise the safety of patients and other team members once that employee returns to work.

A travel policy can help practice owners determine how to reintegrate employees into the workplace following their travel.

State laws restrict employers from regulating where employees can go on vacation, but practice owners can develop a travel policy that includes a pre-travel inquiry that could help protect patients and staff from potential exposure.

The pre-travel inquiry can require employees to give advance notice to their supervisors or employer about the details of their travel plans, including their intended destinations and means of transportation. Employers should avoid asking personal details unrelated to COVID-19 and should only require information that is necessary to determine whether the employee is traveling out of state or internationally and for how long.

For extra security, practice owners can incorporate a travel advisory in their policy and require that employees sign it before they start their vacation.

The advisory may ask the employee to acknowledge that if they travel to any area designated as a COVID-19 hot spot, they may be required to self-quarantine when they return, unless they are fully vaccinated. The policy should also specify whether employees who are required to self-quarantine must work remotely and, if possible, use any available paid time off to cover that period or clarify that the time off may be unpaid.

Employers of 26 or more employees who are required to comply with the provisions of California Supplemental COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Laws may be required to pay employees who are subject to an employer post-travel quarantine or isolation period as defined by federal, state or local orders or CDC guidelines.

Tips for employees when traveling

Practice owners can include the following recommendations in the travel policy to help employees minimize their risk of exposure while on vacation:

  • Continue to follow all the CDC-recommended COVID-19 practices, such as washing hands, staying home if sick, wearing cloth masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding large groups of people.
  • Before traveling, consider if and where you will be permitted to stop and plan ahead. Evaluate the risk of exposure in the area and take enhanced safety measures such as using additional PPE, disinfectant and hand sanitizer.
  • If traveling domestically, evaluate whether the location you are visiting will permit entry with or without self-quarantine and whether your home state will permit you to return with or without self-quarantine.
  • If traveling by bus, train or airplane, anticipate a greater risk of exposure and take enhanced measures to protect yourself.
  • If traveling internationally, thoroughly review the travel bans and restrictions related to the country you plan to visit and whether you will be permitted to return to the U.S. after your trip.

Practice owners should clearly communicate any new policy to employees in advance and specify that the goal of the policy is to maintain a healthy workplace. Employers should also obtain a signed acknowledgement of the new policy from each employee.

Additionally, employers should be prepared to revise policies as changes occur, follow the policies consistently and enforce the policies universally for all team members to avoid a potential discrimination claim.