Lee SlatonBy Lee Slaton, Vice President of Healthcare; Smart Training

For you Sopranos fans, my favorite recurring scene is Silvio Dante (played by Steven Van Zandt) doing his impression of the Al Pacino quote from The Godfather: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” That’s kind of how I’ve felt about Covid lately and its continued impact on the healthcare industry.

Though its numbers have thankfully dropped, Covid continues to be the single-largest cause of death in the U.S.

Just for last week, the number of reported deaths due to Covid was 2,290 for an annualized total of 119,080. Interestingly, fair weather states Florida and Texas lead the way in fatalities (174 and 119 deaths, respectively) in the last week.

The continuing trend of fatalities befalling our older population—especially those over 65— represents the biggest shift in who Covid hits the hardest. This group now comprises over 75% of all fatalities due to Covid.

A persistent bellyache recently sent me to an ER in Dallas for a CT scan. 14 hours in the ER followed by 34 hours or so in different sections of the hospital gave me a first-hand reminder of how highly-transmissible viruses (lead by Covid and the flu) continue to impact our healthcare facilities.

This particular facility’s ER was completely full (actually overflowing with a dozen or so patients on gurneys in the hallways). Its treatment rooms and all of its patient rooms were also full the whole time I was there. That experience provided a great compare and contrast between what hospital staff are doing to mitigate the risks those viruses present to staff and patients versus the approach many dental practices are taking. In the ER waiting room, one got no further than check-in before being pre-screened and handed a mask to wear while waiting to be treated. Everyone—patients and staff—was wearing masks during my entire 48-hour visit.

How is your practice addressing Covid? The CDC has not updated its recommendations for healthcare settings since last September. Approximately 45% of all counties in the U.S. are still measuring high levels of community transmission, which brings into play higher levels of recommendations to deal with Covid from the CDC. It’s been a tough slog and there’s a lot of fatigue in dealing with this day to day.

Unlike ERs and hospitals, dental practices usually have the ability to reschedule patients who are or have been ill, excepting in dental emergencies. Probably the most effective and least intrusive thing you can do now is to continue to pre-screen all your patients and reschedule them if they’ve been ill or have been around anyone who’s been ill. That’s prudent for Covid, the flu, and RSV.

Make sure your staff doesn’t come in to work if they’ve been sick or around someone who has been. If you have elderly patients coming in, offer them masks to wear during their visit. When possible, continuing to limit persons in the waiting room that accompany patients is also a no-brainer. I’d be curious to know what your practice is doing to mitigate your risks.

A note from Lee: If you have questions about best practices, please give Smart Training a call. Infection control and exposure control are our calling cards. It’s been gratifying to see dental practices step up their game during the pandemic to make things safer for their patients and staffs; and our compliance advisors love sharing their knowledge.