NYSDA Board of Trustees issues update on steps being taken to safely open dental practices in NYS

April 23, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

Many members have reached out sharing their concerns about the timing of returning to work. Please know that we have been in contact with the Governor’s office and are actively advocating that dental practices be restored as essential services for all New Yorkers. We have been doing this since the start of his PAUSE initiative.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, dental practices restricted themselves to providing only emergency dental services. This action was necessary as part of the stay at home directive for the good of the public. We were successful in getting urgent care added to emergency care which broadened treatment options. We know that dental practices need to return to an essential service for the health of the public, the survival of offices as a valuable small business in their communities, and because delayed dental treatment leads to emergency dental treatment since dental disease is preventable.

There are many moving parts to this. As you know, Governor Cuomo has shared a blueprint to un-PAUSE New York, get people back to work, and ease social isolation without triggering renewed spread of the virus. This plan includes a four-step process: (1) Extending the NY Pause order until May 15; (2) Strengthening the healthcare system; (3) Testing and contact tracing; and (4) Returning to a “new normal.”

What is the “new normal” for dentistry?

This “new normal” must include two vital components to safely reopen dental offices across New York State. Unfortunately, the availability of rapid COVID-19 testing and the sufficient availability of proper PPE, does not currently exist. NYSDA is actively advocating for proper PPE and POC testing in dental offices. We are aware that all PPE is being prioritized to people directly treating COVID-19 patients (and there are shortages even for those health care providers). We are in discussions with many vendors so that as PPE inventory grows, it will be available to our members. As the state inventory grows, we are advocating for dentists to be included as essential healthcare provider in its distribution.

We are on track for opening dental offices even more broadly in the state, having had productive discussions with government officials. Yes, the Governor opened hospitals in select upstate counties for elective surgeries, however, not for private dental offices yet. In order to do any outpatient elective surgery, the Governor has required that the patient must have already tested negative for COVID-19. As mentioned earlier, this is something dentists cannot do in their offices at this time. There are no COVID-19 in-office tests available. And the tests that are approved, are not CLIA-waived. The final decision rests with the Governor, and we are actively communicating our position. As you know, we cannot force a decision on him.

What are we doing for our members?

NYSDA leaders and staff are deeply concerned about delayed health care for patients and the economic hardship our members face as a result of the current crisis. Members can be confident that NYSDA is strongly advocating for in-office tests, supplies, and economic relief; addressing questions from members; and working with local, state and national leaders to guide the establishment of best practices for when we return to work. Our advocacy will continue directly with the Governor’s office and his top aides, as well as with the NYS Department of Health.

When faced with the difficult choices we are all making daily, please, rest assured that all levels of the tripartite are working for you -- The American Dental Association, the New York State Dental Association and your local dental society. We are doing everything we can to ensure that you are prepared to return to work safely as soon as possible.

Stay safe and healthy,

Board of Trustees
New York State Dental Association