If you’re scheduled for professional appointments in this age of pandemic precautions, expect several new steps.
For that dentist or doctor’s visit, you’ll likely fill out a COVID-19 form before arrival. Many offices will ask patients to wait outside until a call or text to enter. Then at a number of sites, you’ll be met at the door for a temperature check and again questions about symptoms.
Many offices aren’t using their waiting room , or you sit distanced from others with no magazines or coffee machine. It’s much the same at hair salons and barber shops: Wear a mask and expect precautions.
“A lot of it is upfront as far as differences; it’s just the prescreening and asking questions,” said Dr. Ashley Ulmer, who has a north Spokane dental practice and is president-elect of the Washington State Dental Association.
The questions are focused to ensure that people don’t have COVID-19 symptoms or don’t suspect exposure. Her patients get a temperature check at the door, and appointment times are staggered, Ulmer said.
If someone accompanies a patient, they’ll often be asked to wait in the car or run an errand unless they’re needed to help communicate.
Along with precautions, however, Ulmer said professionals want to see people return.
“We really want to see people coming back into the office because there is a lot that we keep up with, including your maintenance, but then also making sure there aren’t problems that might be brewing that need to be treated,” she said. “We’re catching those things that start early.”
Dental practices have long followed infection control protocols before COVID-19, but additional steps address the pandemic concerns, said Bracken Killpack, executive director of the Washington State Dental Association.
“Most of the changes you’ll see will be at the beginning of an appointment,” he said. “You’ll be asked about how you’re feeling, have you been traveling? You’ll be asked those same questions likely right beforehand, too.
“If you are sitting in a waiting room, the waiting room is going to look a lot different than it did before. There will be more distancing. A lot of offices are actually having people just wait in their car and then they’ll text you when they’re ready.”
Other suggested guidelines might include a rinse with a 1% hydrogen peroxide solution to reduce the amount of pathogens in the mouth. You might see plexiglass barriers at reception areas, he said.
Doctors and health providers
Health care offices also have heightened screening and mask-wearing rules before anybody enters a patient room. People might avoid coming in at all by using telehealth options that have proven effective, said Dr. Monica Blykowski-May, CHAS chief medical officer.
“We are trying to minimize the amount of traffic through our clinics; that has probably been the biggest change we have gone through because sick people come to health clinics,” she said. “We don’t want our clinics to be areas where there’s actually higher transmission of virus.
“The biggest thing is the telehealth and that everywhere in our community, not just at CHAS, we’ve really done remarkable work on shifting care to online or phone platforms.”
When patients call, CHAS’ phone system protocols are set up now to direct toward the best form of care and location, she said.
When people need to enter clinics or don’t have telehealth options, CHAS clinics have newer policies common at other practices. At the door, greeters ask about COVID-19-related symptoms and take patients’ temperatures. All staff are wearing protective gear, and patients are given masks or asked to wear their own. Non-essential guests are asked to wait outside.
CHAS maintains separate spaces for patients who have respiratory or COVID-19-like symptoms, Blykowski-May said.
“We have several locations that have tents where we access patients and do the COVID testing so that we’re avoiding bringing those patients inside the waiting rooms and inside our clinic spaces.”
Curbside pharmacy service and mailed prescriptions are options, she said. Daily, clinic employees attest that they don’t have respiratory symptoms or an elevated temperature. They all have had COVID-19 testing and can again if they think they might be exposed, she said.
For that trim, you’ll likely wear a mask going into a salon, be met at the door and bypass the reception area. That’s the case at Salon Nouveau in Spokane, owner and stylist Terri Brazil said.
“We ask that you wait in the car or wait outside until we’re ready and then to have a mask on,” she said. “Then you’ll have your temperature taken, and anyone above 100 degrees won’t be allowed in.
“You need to come in by yourself unless you’re a child with an adult bringing you in.”
Hand sanitizer is offered next. At Salon Nouveau, customers are given a bag to hold their personal belongings. Guests also sign a waiver regarding travel and no known exposure to COVID-19.
“The only other things that are way different than before would be during shampooing,” Brazil said. “You have to have a towel over the client’s face to protect the client’s eyes and whole face while shampooing.”
Each area is sanitized between client visits. There are no walk-ins. “It’s by appointment only,” she said.
Customers wear masks at all times, she said, and when stylists have to cut around the ear, the clients are asked to hold the mask to the face and take one side off at the ear. Stylists all wear masks and are required to take their temperature before entering the salon.
The salon is open later, so stylists can stagger shifts and have only 50% of them on the premises.
Under a COVID-19 guide for broader reopening, the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association posted a May 19 update calling for continued use of masks and curbside transfer of pets as technicians take animals from a vehicle into clinics.
The agency encourages telehealth appointments when possible for pet care and to limit the number of people entering a facility. For euthanasia, it suggests a distanced escort of the pet owner to a room, insertion of a catheter in a separate room and to ask for wearing of personal protective equipment as an owner holds the animal.
“The role of animals in transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is unclear,” the document says. “Zoonotic transmission, if it occurs, is presumably very rare.” The risk is in human-to-human transmission, the group said, in describing a need to limit close contact with pet owners.
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