After weeks of shutdown, the nation is beginning to slowly and cautiously re-emerge. Like the decisions to shut down and shelter in place, the plans to reopen have come state by state or region by region. California is now in Phase I of the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” plan, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a statement on April 27, 2020 providing guidelines for resuming health care for non-emergent and non-COVID-19 health care. Their guidance is intended to set a plan for California, while understanding there may be circumstances that require different timelines for different locations or regions.
Based on these new guidelines, Doctors of Optometry in California are encouraged to gradually resume full scope of services when possible and safe to do so. Businesses are advised to continue to encourage telework, whenever possible, to protect patients and healthcare workers. The physical layout and flow of patient care may also change in order to maintain physical distancing in patient movement and waiting areas.
Optometric services fall under the CDPH’s “Outpatient Visit Guidelines.” These guidelines prioritize scheduling for patients that cannot be treated by telehealth in the following order:
- Patients with acute illnesses
- Patients with chronic illness that have not been seen due to Stay-at-Home rules and need an in-person visit
- Preventative services, including vaccinations
- List of previously cancelled or postponed patients
- Other patients needing in-person visit to monitor status or assess illness, etc
Although San Diego County has not officially released guidance or a timeline of when the current restrictions will be lifted, optometrists are advised to use their judgment to determine when it is appropriate to provide non-urgent care. The use of telemedicine is still recommended, whenever possible.
The AOA and COA websites are great resources for updated information during this constantly evolving situation. There you will find helpful resources, guidelines, webinars, and checklists to help with practice reopening and activation as well as practice relief, information about personal protective equipment (PPE), and other safety and financial considerations.
I also want to thank everyone who virtually attended our informational Q&A webinar this week. If you missed it, the presentation and Q&A have been posted on our website for your convenience. Please check our website frequently for updates to the Continuing Education schedule as well.
The SDCOS board and I are doing our best to stay up to date on the latest developments of the coronavirus response in the Optometry community and provide useful information to our members as we face this pandemic together. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our board with any questions or comments. We are in this together and SDCOS is here to support you.