During the height of the pandemic, some clinics and medical offices temporarily paused services, or scaled back in-person appointments. Thanks to the efforts of residents to stay home, effectively controlling the spread of the virus. Practitioners now are starting to offer broader services to meet the needs of communities, starting with patients whose care needs are most urgent.
Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening public spaces that will require careful planning. Every American has been called upon to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing and prevention hygiene, such as frequently washing your hands and wearing face coverings. Everyone also has a role in making sure our communities are as safe as possible to reopen and remain open.
Communities also need a system to trace people who have come into contact with positive cases so they too can be isolated, doctors say. “Otherwise you simply let everybody out for a few days and two weeks later have a surge in cases and have to start all over again,” says Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minn. The U.S. so far largely lacks widespread testing and tracing, he says. “Most communities do not have that capacity.”
So the safest move for most people is still to stay home as much as possible. But if you do go out, there are ways to reduce the risks. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published a Phase 1 guide (PDF) for reopening facilities to provide non-emergent, non-COVID care. To build upon those recommendations, the AMA has compiled a Physician’s Safety Guide To Reopening with a checklist and other resources to ensure that your medical practice is ready for reopening.
The AMA also developed a template for pre-appointment patient screening questions. The answers to these questions must be shared with a decision-making clinician if the patient has answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions below to make sure that patient can be given an appointment.