COVID-19 UPDATES & RESOURCES

Update 3-18-2020 - Message from our President, Erin McCleary, O.D.

Dear CAO members,

With the ever changing and quickly moving COVID-19 environment, I wanted to reach out to all of you and offer resources and guidance as we collectively navigate this unprecedented global pandemic. We realize that each of you are facing very challenging times, the likes of which we have not ever seen. As President of the CAO, I want you to know that our Board has been engaged daily in the developments from the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office. The AOA has sent daily communication to members and is working closely with our federal government and CDC to ensure members have access to small business loans as well as access to telemedicine billing for Medicare patients. 

As you assess how to move forward in caring for your patients and operating your practice, please consider the following guidance and best practices from state and federal experts working on the front lines in addressing the pandemic. Ultimately, each OD must decide their own course of action over the coming weeks and months. We know that the health and safety of your patients, staff and family will be at the forefront of this decision. Please know that the CAO stands ready to assist and provide information to help you traverse our current challenges. These considerations are not policy, but suggestions to help you make personal, individual decisions in the best interests of your businesses and patients. So far there have been no specific actions from the Connecticut Department of Public Health or the Governor for non-hospital-based practices. However, as many of you are already aware, both the CDC and AOA have given their formal recommendations to cease all routine eye care. In solidarity with both these recommendations and our fellow affiliate associations such as Massachusetts, the CAO formally recommends that all optometrists in Connecticut temporarily refrain from providing routine eye care until, at least, April 6, 2020. Of course, it is expected that optometrists will continue to be available as needed for emergency care. We will modify our recommendations as the CDC and AOA continue to update their guidelines in the coming weeks.

I encourage you to develop both short- and long-term contingency business plans as we cannot predict the length of this pandemic. If your business is economically impacted, there have been federal and state initiatives put in place to offset these financial burdens. As we get more information, we as an association will be working to bring these resources to you.

This guidance is not issued lightly, and it is being done out of an abundance of caution during this unknowable situation. As health care professionals, we all have a role to play in guiding our own patients to make better decisions on behalf of our society's health. We should all try to do our part to flatten the curve of infection. Some may believe the measures set forth by the Governor’s Office are extreme, but as medical professionals it is our charge to protect those most vulnerable. Our parents, grandparents and other loved ones may be at grave risk and we should recognize that ventilators, hospital beds and other supplies are limited. Many of you as providers are also in this risk group. Everyone should do their part to slow the spread and decrease the burden on hospitals, if possible. Below my signature is a list of considerations and resources.

Please feel free to reach out to me personally. All Board members are available to help as well as the CAO office staff. Continued professional alignment, collaboration and sharing of knowledge is the best way to work together in decreasing public anxiety and ensure positive outcomes. I am thinking of all of you and your families in the upcoming weeks. The CAO and AOA will continue to communicate to members via email. Please check spam and read these communications.

Sincerely,
Erin McCleary, O.D

CONSIDERATIONS:

  • Consider postponing and rescheduling those patients age 60 years and older, patients with comorbidities, patients who are immunocompromised or closing your office to nonemergency visits.
  • Screening conducted by telephone may be a way to mitigate the risk from office visits. Ideally, this would be done on the day of service. Office hours could be delayed to accommodate for this. Use the CDC recommended patient evaluation flow chart https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/2019-nCoV-identify-assess-flowchart-508.pdf 
  • Patients who screen positive should be strongly advised to stay home or contact their PCP or urgent care center.
  • Consider staggering appointment times or spread out appointments to socially distance patients.
  • Contemplate implementing virtual check-ins via text from your parking lot to reduce time in your waiting room.
  • Consider taking the temperature of patients that must be seen when they enter your office.
  • Ask caregivers accompanying patients to their appointments to remain in their cars unless assistance is absolutely needed to reduce congregating in waiting rooms - implement social distancing procedures.
  • Reduce patients moving from room to room and keep patients isolated from others as much as possible.
  • Use universal precautions and follow disinfection recommendations from the CDC. This goes beyond basic personal and clinic hygiene. Re-evaluate your disinfecting procedures.
  • Consider strategies to reduce person to person exposure at the slit lamp.
  • Contemplate how you want to handle in office contact lens hygiene especially for new fits.
  • Consider rotating doctors and staff seeing patients on different days (platooning) to reduce risk of multiple practitioners from being exposed simultaneously.
  • Implement telemedicine and phone triage techniques for nonemergency eye conditions.

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

AOA - Specific for Optometry: https://www.aoa.org/coronavirus

Updates from Governor Lamont: https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2020/03-2020/Governor-Lamont-Coronavirus-Update-March-16-2020-5PM

Updates from the Connecticut Department of Health: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus

Center of Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Recommended Disinfection Procedures from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

Small Business Loan Help: https://www.sba.gov/page/guidance-businesses-employers-plan-respond-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

State of Connecticut resources for businesses: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Pages/Business-Resources

Unemployment: COVID-19 Employer Obligations & FAQ - Part 1
COVID-19 Employer Obligations & FAQ - Part 2

Frequently Asked Questions on the State of Connecticut's actions related to COVID-19 by Governor Ned Lamont: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Coronavirus/COVID-19-FAQs.pdf?la=en