Reopening? Here’s Where to Find Guidance on Directives

April 30, 2020 — The good news is there are a lot of starting-back-up resources available to optometric practices. The bad news is...well, the same thing.

While rural states like Montana, Alaska, and Vermont have been the quickest to open back up, pockets of population across the country are doing the same. That means more of you are putting your path to reopening into practice. And, in doing so, some of you tell us you’re facing conflicting directives. 

The question then becomes who is top dog? Your professional organization? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government guideposts? Your governor? Your mayor?

Unknown-1-(3).pngShared Insight
Getting insight from all available resources is valuable. And, in Tennessee, for example, Rob Szeliga, O.D., owner of Spring Hill Eyecare (pictured), did just that.

The result? He is reopening and sharing the following statement with patients that cites multiple sources. “The American Optometric Association (AOA) has confirmed with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials that the agency’s March 17 nationwide recommendations to postpone routine eye care is no longer in effect. 

“Spring Hill Eyecare is ready to resume delivery of complete, comprehensive eye health and vision care in accordance with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and the Economic Recovery Group’s ‘Tennessee Pledge’ for reopening of businesses.” 

Your Call
Many state optometric associations are doing a great job of guiding you through the maze. The Texas Optometric Association (TOA) made new recommendations this week following the release of Governor Greg Abbott’s “Governor’s Report to Open Texas.”

According to the TOA, “Optometrists, as individuals and employers should read this document and use these recommendations... Take slow, deliberate, and prudent actions with respect to the Governor’s new order and what is best for the safety of your patients, employees, and community. Although the new order goes into effect Friday [May 1], the Governor stated that businesses do not have to open if they are not yet ready or able. Each individual optometrist should continue to use their best professional judgment to minimize virus spread if you decide to increase care capacity in your offices in the coming days and weeks.”

Shared Confusion
Most ECPs we spoke with agree that getting input from local as well as national resources is an important back-to-business step. There is, however, sometimes a challenge, as expressed by one frustrated O.D. And, that’s conflicting communications. “Some local governments aren’t doing it right. Thus, listening to them might cause harm. Then there’s the confusion of state vs. local, county vs. state, etc.”

And, what if conditions change in your area? While not every resource we’ve seen has addressed this, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructs facilities to, “continually evaluate whether their region remains a low risk of incidence and be prepared to cease non-essential procedures if there is a surge.”  

If you’re getting mixed messages, you’re clearly not alone. Be sure to source the CDC and AOA guidelines, as well as input from your state optometric organization. —Stephanie K. De Long