California Department of Public Health on September 17 COVID-19 testing mandate terminated For unvaccinated health care workers and other individuals in high-risk settings, which includes dental offices.
Non-vaccinated dentists and their staff have been in compliance with a state public health order requiring weekly vaccination or testing since full compliance began on August 23, 2021. Negative employer test.
Dentists’ employers had tracking and documentation obligations as part of the state’s mandate. CDA members used resources during this time to help them comply, including a CDA self-certification of an employee’s vaccination status, a weekly employee test tracking form and forms for requesting and documenting vaccination waivers.
Other high-risk healthcare settings that are no longer subject to weekly or twice-weekly testing requirements include, but are not limited to, physicians’ offices, general acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, acute psychiatric facilities, and homeless shelters.
Despite the state order being lifted, some cities and counties continue to mandate weekly COVID-19 testing. Employers must follow the strictest system, whether federal, state or local, and they must check with their local health department to ensure compliance.
Vaccine coverage ‘high among workers in high-risk environments’
The State press release When announcing the termination of July 21, 2021, the Public Health Order notes a high vaccination rate among workers in high-risk settings. A CDA survey conducted in May and June 2021 showed that 94% of California dentists had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The different behavior of the omicron sub variants—mainly, their increased transmissibility even among previously vaccinated, booster, and infected individuals—also influenced CDPH’s decision to revoke the authorization of vaccination or testing.
CDPH stated that “mandatory testing of a small number of unvaccinated workers does not effectively prevent transmission as with the original COVID-19 virus and earlier variants earlier in the pandemic.” “As a result, while COVID-19 remains with us, I am rescinding the July 26, 2021, order of the state public health officer effective September 17, 2022,” the state public health official wrote.
Encourage employers to continue promoting vaccination and testing
As weekly testing requirements end, CDPH encourages employers to continue providing testing resources to employees to slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities, noting that “vaccination and testing are key measures that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as is masking and improving indoor ventilation.”
Dentists can continue to use the resources in the CDA’s Vaccine Trust Toolkit to administer rapid tests in their practice, manage staff, and discuss vaccine safety and efficacy with their patients. Just last week, with the help of a CDPH grant, the CDA published new infographics, talking points about vaccination, a sample of social media posts and other resources for use specifically in dental offices.
Additionally, dentists and other employers in California can still choose to have their workers vaccinated against COVID-19. Member dentists may use the CDA Sample Vaccination Policy, which includes instructions and considerations for employers, including circumstances in which employees may be exempt from compliance.
Concealment, examination and reporting requirements continue in dental offices
Dentists and their staff, as well as patients and visitors in dental offices and other health care settings in California, must continue to wear face masks, and employers must provide appropriate respirators for staff involved in aerosol generation procedures. Cal/OSHA requires the use of respirators during these procedures in both the dental and medical settings.
Dental offices should also continue to screen patients for COVID-19 as required by Cal/OSHA.
The CDA has a Q&A on concealment and screening requirements and an article with detailed information about ongoing reporting and return-to-work requirements under the current Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Interim Standards that expire December 31.