Latest COVID-19 update emailed to our members

Published on March 19, 2020
World map highlights countries with positive COVID-19 results.

Please visit avma.org/Coronavirus for the most up-to-date information.

The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve rapidly, and the veterinary community has many questions. AVMA sent these updates to our members in an email last night (Wednesday, March 18, 2020). 

The AVMA is working around the clock to get the answers the veterinary community needs and to respond to emergent proposals in ways that support veterinary medical teams, patients, clients, and our communities.

PPE: Personal protective equipment 

Of utmost importance at this critical time is the conservation of personal protective equipment (PPE). Federal and state officials are urging healthcare providers and others who use PPE to take actions that will help conserve supplies to increase their availability on the human health side. 

The veterinary profession will need to do its part, so it's critical that veterinarians think strategically about how to conserve. As an example, because of the need to conserve PPE, and within the context of professional judgement, veterinarians should consider postponing elective surgical procedures as long as doing so is medically appropriate.

To help veterinarians respond to this critical need to conserve PPE, while continuing to protect our patients and teams, the AVMA is preparing a guidance document that will be based on recommendations from the FDA, but with some additional commentary to identify those recommendations that may be more directly applicable to veterinary medicine. That document will be posted to the AVMA website and sent to AVMA members when it is completed. 

The AVMA will continue to work with multiple organizations and agencies on these issues as COVID-19 continues to impact the profession and the world around us.

We understand that over the longer term, there are implications of applying such conservation practices that could impact veterinarians’ ability to adhere to current standards of care, and we have worked with the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) to encourage some flexibility. On March 17, the AAVSB sent a letter to the U.S. and Canadian veterinary state boards, recommending that “to the extent PPE supplies should be inadequate to supply the needs of veterinary practices, Member Boards should consider such shortages when called upon to review the standard by which such care has been provided during the time of such shortage. Member Boards are encouraged to allow greater deference to the veterinarian’s professional judgment for unique circumstances that arise during these times of quarantine and resource conservation.”

Donating equipment where it’s needed most

In addition, these same federal and state officials and our human medical colleagues are beginning to reach out to us requesting donations—of both PPE and ventilators. This is our opportunity to share the great work of our veterinary medical teaching hospitals in collaboration with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). Already, on campuses where there are both veterinary teaching hospitals and human medical teaching hospitals, our veterinary teaching hospital staff are reaching out to see how they can collaborate with their human medical colleagues to help fill gaps in equipment, sharing available PPE as well as sharing ventilators and repurposing anesthetic machines that might be used as ventilators. While this collaboration is happening, we anticipate there will be an opportunity for you to participate as well

We’ve reached out to the Veterinary Medical Association Executives (VMAE) to ask them to work with state veterinary medical associations to identify local needs and what opportunity there may be to meet those needs. Your state associations may be reaching out to you accordingly. Please know that we are incredibly grateful for any support you might be able to provide. 

Protecting veterinary teams

During this time, it is also vitally important that you protect your staff. If you or one of your staff becomes ill or is known to be exposed to COVID-19, in addition to concerns about your and their wellbeing, there is the possibility that you will be asked by public health officials to temporarily close your practice for personnel isolation and facility cleaning. With this risk in mind, we are increasingly seeing state veterinary medical boards issue advisories that veterinarians should work to reschedule all nonessential appointments so as to limit public exposure.

In addition, veterinary clinics should be aware that limits on statewide gatherings (e.g., 10 people) could apply to activity in their clinics. In most cases, these will not apply to employees in the clinic, but they may apply to clients in waiting rooms. Please check with local officials for clarification. 

The veterinary community is strong, and we are all in this together. We can do our part for the common good, while making sure we continue to provide the needed medical support to our patients and protect the nation’s food supply.

Telemedicine and emergency teletriage within the context of an existing VCPR can be extremely helpful in limiting your staff’s exposure, and enable you to support and monitor the health of your patients and conform to local requirements, while preventing the potential spread of COVID-19. Conducting pre-visit triage can help protect you and your staff as you prioritize and determine which patients need to be seen at the clinic.  It can also help you manage personnel resources. Find resources to help implement or expand telemedicine offerings at avma.org/Telemedicine.

Related to our concerns of potential clinic staff exposure, we are also working to share guidance on what to do in the event that a clinic staff member contracts COVID-19 and will provide that for you as soon as possible. These materials will be added to the AVMA website, which you can check frequently for updates at avma.org/Coronavirus. Also, at that same website, you’ll already find helpful guidance on caring for veterinary patients and managing visits.  

What is an “essential business”?

Another critical area we are working on is to ensure that veterinary medicine is classified as an essential business. With various jurisdictions limiting provision of goods and services to those that are “essential,” AVMA has been advocating strongly on the profession’s behalf for veterinary clinics to be considered “essential businesses.” 

On March 17, the AVMA shared a statement urging federal and state lawmakers to consider veterinary practices "essential businesses" and thereby allowed to continue to provide critical services in our communities.  This is very important in cases where non-essential retail facilities are asked to close or repurpose personal protective equipment (PPE) due to COVID-19. Veterinary teams provide essential care for ill and injured animals, play a critical role in protecting the health of animals that enter the food supply, and serve as trusted members of the local community in disaster situations.

Working with Congress

We are also working diligently with Congress to advocate on behalf of the profession on many fronts to address the needs of veterinarians related to COVID-19, whether as owners or employees of veterinary practices. On Wednesday, the Senate advanced the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). The bill includes provisions to support individuals in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and includes new paid leave requirements for employers. 

After much debate over the impact to small businesses, the package now awaits the president’s signature to become law. Throughout the deliberations, AVMA advocated for a workable solution that would support individuals in need of paid time off without overly burdening small businesses and risking their financial viability. AVMA remains engaged in the ongoing deliberations. Further legislative measures are expected as Congress responds to the ripple effects and financial impact of the outbreak. 

Support throughout the veterinary community

The veterinary community is strong, and we are all in this together. We can do our part for the common good, while making sure we continue to provide the needed medical support to our patients and protect the nation’s food supply.

The AVMA will continue to work with multiple organizations and agencies on these issues as COVID-19 continues to impact the profession and the world around us. We are committed to the veterinary community and will continue to provide you with information and resources as soon as they are available. 

For the most up-to-date information at all times, see avma.org/Coronavirus.
 

Comments

Great info!

Keep up the great work and thanks for helping to guide me through this time.

we need to know about essential practices....

Why is the mandating for whether or not we are deemed essential a county-by-county ordeal? Why are we being reactive and not proactive?
Miami-Dade made ordinance this week that all non-essential businesses are closed, and THEN the AVMA got involved and overturned it for vet clinics?
I am in Palm Beach County and confused as to what I should prepare for. I work with endangered species and we are battling our city as to whether we can take in sea turtle strandings. Still awaiting a response from Tallahassee...

Essential?

Why are clinics that provide preventative care only allowed to stay open?

Spaying and Neurtering

Is the AMVA telling Vets not to conduct Spaying and Neutering? My vet in PA stated that they are asked to push this off. Being the owner of a young pup I wanted to schedule this

RE: Spaying and Neutering

The AVMA is strongly encouraging veterinarians consult with state and local health officials so that timely and accurate information can guide appropriate responses in each location where their operations reside. Since the intensity of an outbreak may differ according to geographic location, local health officials will be issuing guidance specific to their communities.

Rehabilitaion Practices

I work in a canine rehabilitation (physical therapy) clinic. Would these be considered essential? Technically, no pet will die without rehab, but many will decline pain-wise and mobility-wise without it. I just don't know whether people will be allowed to bring their pet to a rehab clinic since it's not an "emergency".

RE: Rehabilitation Practices

On March 19, the US Department of Homeland Security issued Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. Animal health and veterinary services are included. While this is not a federal mandate, it is a recommendation to state and local jurisdictions.

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