Special Notice to Veterinarians: COVID-19 Guidelines from the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs

Special Notice to Veterinarians: COVID-19 Guidelines from the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs

On March 6, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf proclaimed the existence of a disaster emergency throughout the Commonwealth as a result of COVID-19.

On March 19, 2020, Governor Wolf ordered that no person or entity shall operate a place of business in the Commonwealth that is not a life-sustaining business regardless of whether the business is open to members of the public, and a list was provided to help citizens understand what business were to be considered “life sustaining businesses.”

Since that time, there has been some confusion in the veterinary community as to whether veterinarians may, or may not, continue to operate. Furthermore, many in the veterinary community have asked whether there are any practice restrictions due to COVID-19, the resulting PPE shortage, and the need to observe social distancing to prevent continued spread of the virus.

The Board has been able to confirm that, on the Governor’s “life-sustaining businesses” list, veterinary medicine is classified under NAICS* Code number of 5419 (“other professional, scientific and technical services”) and therefore, would normally be classified as non-life-sustaining and not permitted to continue physical operation, but for the exception provided for “veterinary services.” Please keep in mind that this list has been amended on several occasions, and it may continue to be amended, so the Board strongly suggests that veterinarians revisit this list on a regular basis.

However, the designation of veterinary medicine as an essential life-sustaining business does not eliminate the need for veterinarians to assist in the efforts to prevent further spread of the coronavirus and to conserve PPE. As such, the State Board of Veterinary Medicine has adopted the AVMA’s COVID-19 guidelines. A link to these guidelines is available on the Board website. The Board strongly encourages veterinarians to review the wealth of COVID-19 information for veterinarians on the AVMA website. In addition to the information normally found on the Board’s website, you will find information regarding the use of telemedicine during the COVID-19 emergency and the suspension of some continuing education restrictions. The Governor also approved waivers requested by the Department related to telemedicine and reactivation of retired practitioners.

Finally, the Board has become aware of the Governor’s April 8, 2020 Order requiring health care facilities in the Commonwealth to submit current inventory quantities of PPE, pharmaceuticals, and other medical resources as directed by the Pennsylvania Management Agency within 5 days of the Order. While veterinarians are not necessarily required to comply with this order, the Board encourages veterinarians to consider whether they have any medical resources that can be donated to this effort in anticipation of the expected surge.

Please note that neither the Board nor its staff may provide you with legal advice. Should you have any questions regarding practice restrictions or any of the Governor’s Orders, you may wish to consult with a private attorney for legal advice or a professional association for guidance.

* North American Industry Classification System