31 Mar FAQs – Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Pennsylvania During the COVID-19 Pandemic
PVMA is working hard to give you timely, accurate information during the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge you to check our website, PaVMA.org frequently, as we will update it as the situation evolves. If you have questions not addressed in this post, click here and we will respond to you as quickly as possible.
Is Veterinary Medicine an essential business?
On Monday, March 16, Governor Wolf announced that Pennsylvania is entering aggressive mitigation to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes the closing of all non-essential facilities. Are veterinary hospitals and ambulatory practices considered essential? According to the Governor’s office, essential services include emergency medical services and medical facilities. Governor Wolf’s administration deems veterinary practices qualify as essential services, specifically for care of sick and injured animals. Veterinarians and our teams provide important animal care and public health surveillance. Production animal veterinarians are crucial for food safety.
What protocols should we put in place if our clinic remains open?
It is important that social distancing policies, consistent with your local restrictions, are enforced. We strongly suggest that you cancel all elective procedures and wellness visits. You may consider telemedicine options for non-emergent cases with established patients. There are various tools that can be used to conduct a video-enabled virtual exam. Remember, a telemedicine visit is not a free service. You can charge for the service if the animal is an established patient (generally seen in the past year), you document the visit and include it in the medical record in a manner consistent with the PA Veterinary Practice Act. AVMA has resources to support telemedicine at AVMA.org/Telemedicine.
If an animal is sick or injured and must have a physical exam, follow these recommendations:
- Ask the client to call the office on their cell phone when they arrive and have a technician go to the car to retrieve the animal. The client should remain in their car, or if they do stand outside, maintain 6-8 feet of distance between other people. They should be available by phone to discuss care during the exam. A technician can return the animal to the car upon completion of the exam.
- If clients do enter the practice, escort them to a private exam room immediately. Do not keep clients in a waiting room. Consider asking for the client’s cell phone number before they arrive and send a text when you are ready for them to enter.
- If a client has travelled outside the United States in March, came in direct contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19, or has tested positive themselves, their animal should only be seen in emergency situations. They should send their animal to your practice with a trusted agent and be available by phone during the exam.
- Prescriptions and pet food purchases should also be conducted through car-side delivery service or shipped directly to the client.
- It is suggested rather than checking clients out in the reception area after their appointment, provide their invoice to them in the exam room or at their vehicle. There they can provide their method of payment and they can stay in the exam room or vehicle while you go complete the payment. This eliminates the need to spend time in the reception area. If clients are in their vehicle during the appointments or have arrived to pick up food/prescriptions, the same concept can apply for the staff member to review the invoice with them there and take payment back inside to complete. Additionally, less contact can also be accomplished by taking payments over the phone from their vehicle.
What if a staff member or visitor to our practice has tested positive for COVID-19?
You should immediately contact your local public health department to determine what protocols should be taken, consistent with local mitigation efforts.
I’m a production animal veterinarian. What should I be doing?
Your role in food safety is critical, so it is important to provide care to sick or injured animals. Limit direct contact with people, clean any non-porous surfaces with which you come in contact and wash your hands frequently.
Can animals contract or transmit COVID-19?
One dog tested “weak positive” for SARS-CoV-2. The dog showed no symptoms but was quarantined. In other testing, IDEXX announced on March 14, 2020, that it had evaluated thousands of canine and feline specimens during validation of its new veterinary test system for the COVID-19 virus and had obtained no positive result. The specimens used for test development and validation were obtained from specimens submitted to IDEXX Reference Laboratories for PCR testing.
Considering this information in total, infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations (CDC, OIE, WHO) agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals or people.
Should I be conserving personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Yes. All healthcare professionals are asked to conserve PPE as much as possible, including veterinarians. The FDA has provided guidance and veterinarian Scott Weese has provided helpful information on his blog. The AVMA is working on developing best practices and we will share this with you when available.
I am concerned about the impact on my business. What should I do?
On Saturday, March 14, 2020, the House passed HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. We will share information on final legislation passed by the Senate as soon as it is available.
The following resources are also available for small businesses:
The coronavirus response business toolkit
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s toolkit includes guidelines on how small business owners can ensure they are keeping their customers and employees safe. You’ll also find a business preparedness checklist to help you figure out what to prioritize and to create a plan of communication for your employees. Get the toolkit
Disaster assistance loans from the SBA
The Small Business Association (SBA) announced it would offer disaster assistance loans for up to $2 million for small businesses affected by the coronavirus. These low-interest loans are available to businesses that have sustained “substantial economic injury” due to the spread of the coronavirus. The money can be used to pay outstanding debts, payroll, and any other bills. While small businesses that have access to credit are not eligible, those with no available credit qualify for an interest rate of 3.75%, and nonprofits will have an interest rate of 2.75%. Read more
Disaster Help Desk for small businesses
The U.S. Chamber Foundation has a disaster help desk that acts as an information concierge to assist small businesses with disaster readiness, relief, and long-term recovery. They also have a business resiliency toolbox with resources to help companies address preparedness issues while building in flexibility to handle potential business interruptions. Read more