(Delivered May 14, 2020)
Dear NYSDA Members,
In a recent survey of our members, we were heartened to learn that a large majority of you are satisfied with the information and advocacy NYSDA provides to you and on your behalf. At the same time, dentists across the state are expressing increasing urgency about reopening their practices to include full services beyond emergency and urgent care.
Back in mid-March, the Governor issued an executive order limiting dentists to providing only "emergency and urgent" care to protect dentists and their patients until we could flatten the COVID-19 spread curve, assess the full extent of this health crisis and its impact on the safety of providers and patients, and allow our members adequate time to prepare for reopening full-service operations in this challenging environment. However, much has transpired over the past 60 days to allow us to achieve the goal of reopening. For the past several weeks we have been actively advocating that dental practices be restored as essential services for all New Yorkers.
The extended period since Governor Cuomo’s emergency order was put into place has provided dental professionals the opportunity to assess their own situations and make informed decisions about when and how to safely reopen. This is the position that we have been strongly advocating with the Governor’s and Lieutenant Governor’s offices, as well as key elected leaders and commissions at the state, county and local levels. All are very supportive of NYSDA’s efforts to fully reopen dental offices throughout the state, and we are doing everything in our power to accelerate the decision-making process.
We know that this is a difficult and demanding time for all of our members and we appreciate your understanding as we push for clarity and immediate action from our state leaders. This is a very fluid situation and we do not want to provide incomplete information before we have clear-cut facts.
We are well aware that New York’s situation is unique. Being located at the epicenter of the world’s COVID-19 crisis has made our situation more challenging than any other state in the country. We also understand that New York’s regions are not all the same, and what may be the right decision for some dentists will not be appropriate for others. But we believe that dental professionals, who have a long history of providing safety and personal infection protection for their patients, are ready to make those decisions for themselves.
This is a very fluid situation and can change at any moment. We will update you as soon as we receive new information. Let me describe the situation as it stands today, May 14, at 11:30 am:
- At this moment Dentistry is still considered an essential business for emergency and urgent dental treatments only in all areas of New York. Until we have a definitive response from the Department of Health, dental offices should not plan to reopen for other services until we receive clearance from the state.
- We are working with the Department of Health to either allow dentists to return to full practice without restriction or to at least expand the services allowed to include necessary and more preventative care. We are also asking that when any such changes are made, that they apply to all dentists throughout the state at the same time. However, there is a chance the changes would be implemented on a regional basis relative to the level of COVID-19 in a particular region. At this time, the Department of Health has not made a decision in this matter.
- Through the efforts of the ADA & NYSDA, dental practices have been moved up on the priority list for receiving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from seventh to fourth highest, and we continue to advocate for improving our standing even further.
- As we receive new and updated information about reopening your offices, we will update our website. Today’s update is available at www.nysdental.org/covid19
Finally, let me reiterate that NYSDA is strongly advocating that it is time for dental offices to return to full service immediately, if they so choose. Because of our close contact with state officials and elected leaders at all levels across the state, NYSDA will be the first to know when key decisions are made and we will notify you immediately.
We sincerely appreciate your continuing support.
Mark J. Feldman, DMD
New York State Dental Association