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Local health department resources can help dentists stay on top of COVID and flu guidance, trends

December 20, 2022 1614

Quick Summary:

Counties in California have strongly recommended masking for the general public in recent weeks, and more counties may follow suit as COVID-19 cases surge in communities this winter complicated by cases of flu and RSV. In health care settings, everybody, regardless of vaccination status, must continue to wear masks in compliance with the state mandate, but dentists should also stay informed of ordinances, recommendations and other guidance from their local health department. Awareness of community disease spread helps to protect staff and patients.

Counties in California have strongly recommended masking for the general public in recent weeks, and more counties may follow suit as COVID-19 cases surge in communities this winter. Flu and RSV have put additional strain on hospitals and contribute to what health officials have called the “triple threat,” especially for more vulnerable individuals, including adults over age 80.

As of Dec. 20, Los Angeles and Yolo are among the counties that have issued or reinstated masking recommendations for the public in indoor settings. Other counties continue to follow the state guidance on masking based on low, medium and high community levels of COVID-19, in alignment with the CDC’s guidance.

In health care settings, everybody, regardless of vaccination status, must continue to wear masks in compliance with the state mandate, and dentists should consider keeping signage posted in dental-office waiting rooms to inform patients and prevent potential disputes.

Awareness of community disease spread helps protect staff and patients

Dentists should also stay informed of ordinances, recommendations and other guidance from their local health department.

Dental practices must always follow the stricter order or regulation, whether local, state or federal. Local governments can mandate COVID-19 vaccination or regular testing, for example, even though California rescinded its vaccinate-or-test mandate for high-risk workers in September. Some cities and counties, including Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Los Angeles, did enforce their own mandates.

Recommendations and guidance can change quickly, and each county’s general masking recommendation may pertain to different indoor settings, for example. Following local recommendations and alerts will help ensure dentists are aware of community spread of respiratory illness to help keep themselves and their staff and patients safe.

City, county health websites offer local data, support and ways to stay informed

Many county and city government websites let readers sign up to receive alerts about local emergencies, mandates and other major local news. These sign-ups frequently can be found on the website homepage, such as with the Alameda County Public Health Department, Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Here is an example of a “health alert” sign-up page for health care providers in Alameda County.

Local government websites, for example the city of Berkeley, Fresno County and San Diego County, also maintain COVID-19, flu and RSV pages with data on community cases, information on where to find vaccines and testing, resources for use in businesses, such as mask signage, and other guidance.

CDA encourages dentists to bookmark their local health department website, review local health ordinances that may impact them and sign up for health information and alerts, if available. CDA will continue to keep dentists informed of statewide regulations and guidance via the newsroom and weekly member newsletter.