April 7, 2020 — In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Visionworks, a VSP Global company, has begun reopening locations for essential and emergency eye care. At this time, VisionWorks will not provide routine eye care.
As health care providers, optometrists were recently included as essential critical infrastructure workers as part of guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“We continue to see rising needs for essential eye care, and by reopening we can ensure those needs are safely met and optometrists can help reduce the number of patients seeking eye care from overwhelmed emergency rooms and hospitals during COVID-19,” says Visionworks President Pete Bridgman.
Up to 60% of Visionworks locations (the company has more than 700 stores in nearly 40 states and the District of Columbia) could reopen in the coming weeks. All will reopen with enhanced safety protocols, including personal protective equipment for employees.
Because not all Visionworks locations are reopening, the organization also announced it must reduce a portion of its workforce through employee furloughs for the next 60 days. Furloughed employees will retain their benefits, with Visionworks paying the employee portion of premiums during this time. Impacted employees will receive assistance from the company in expediting unemployment claims to help them access benefits.
“Like so many other organizations, we continue to face significant economic challenges and impact from COVID-19,” says Bridgman. “We understand what an incredibly painful decision this is. Ultimately, it was necessary to ensure the viability of our operations and our ability to weather this difficult economic storm, while also allowing our doctors to continue providing essential eye care and relieve demand on emergency rooms at this critical time. It is our goal to welcome back as many of our impacted Visionworks family as possible in the months ahead.”
Following the temporary closure of its locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Visionworks activated a telehealth service to connect patients and doctors. To date, nearly 3,500 patients have used the service of free video or phone consultation.