At your dental practice, handling the aftermath of a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 begins long before they step foot into the office. Setting protocols prior to contact with an infected patient will prepare your staff for the worst-case scenario. A clear plan of action that both patients and dental team understand will keep all at ease.
The following are steps based on combined guidance from both the American Dental Association and the Center for Disease Control. However, it is crucial to consult local and state public health authorities to ensure your plan aligns with community guidelines.
1. Contact Tracing: Determine who at the practice came into contact with the COVID-19 positive patient. Get as many details about the visit as possible. The ADA suggests discussing the following with each practice team member:
- What was the date of the last contact?
- Any contact longer than 15 minutes is considered prolonged. What was their duration of contact?
- What was the approximate distance of the contact?
- Are they experiencing symptoms?
With these questions answered, the practice should reach out to all who had potential contact with the COVID-19 positive individual to determine whether or not they are experiencing symptoms. Recommended: a 14-day quarantine during which they must notify a physician if symptoms arise.
2. Testing, Isolation and Monitoring: All team members who have come in contact with the infected patient should seek testing and update the office with results and progression of the illness. In the meantime, the rest of the team should cease working for 14 days, isolate and monitor their health. Those who do not develop a fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test may return to the practice.
3. Disinfecting: Clean and disinfect all surfaces within the practice according to guidelines outlined by the CDC in its pamphlet: Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Dental Settings During the COVID-19 Response. Practices should follow these protocols regardless of contact with coronavirus.
The bottom line: Staff members who experience symptoms should cease working and seek testing immediately. Upon receiving a negative test result and after symptoms subside, they may continue to work, while monitoring themselves for 14 days. If they test positive, consult case management protocols outlined by the CDC and state and local public health departments.