We understand this is an incredibly challenging time for all. We want you, our members, to know that the AVMA is working day and night to advocate for you; to provide useful guidance to help you, your clients, and your practice through this crisis; and to disseminate credible information for all concerned. We are working with federal agencies, including the CDC and FDA; gathering expertise from veterinarians and others working in public health and disaster response; collaborating with state veterinary medical and species-specific organizations, the AAVMC, veterinary schools, and the AAVSB; and other colleagues across the healthcare system to develop the best possible guidance and keep you as updated as possible. Information is being updated constantly on our dedicated COVID-19 webpage.
An important question that has been asked is whether veterinary medicine is considered an “essential business”. AVMA is advocating for all veterinary hospitals and ambulatory practices to be considered essential businesses in any situations in which non-essential businesses are asked to close for COVID-19 risk mitigation. Veterinarians and our teams provide important animal and public health surveillance, deliver essential medical care for ill animals, and ensure that only healthy animals enter the food supply.
Veterinary practices can and should defer elective procedures to preserve medical supplies when circumstances call for that. However, veterinarians must also be able to continue to provide medically necessary care for our animal patients, especially during this time when Americans are spending increased time at home with their pets and ensuring the integrity of our food supply is critical. In doing so, and as needed, veterinarians can adapt our approach to ensure an appropriate level of biosecurity that safeguards the health of our animal patients and their owners.
Healthcare professionals are being asked to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE). All healthcare professionals need to adopt strategies that will allow them to conserve PPE as much as possible, including veterinarians.
The FDA has provided guidance, veterinarian Scott Weese has provided helpful information on his blog, and we are working with other healthcare associations, such as the American Dental Association (ADA), to share best practices. Among issues being discussed are whether/how normally disposable masks might appropriately be reused, substituting reusable cloth masks, whether certain surgical procedures might be able to be performed without masks with minimal risk to our patients and staff, whether adopting modifications to usual protocols allows preservation of an acceptable standard of care, and need for client consent.
HR 6201 - Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6201 very early Saturday, March 14. The bill will be taken up by the Senate very quickly and is expected to pass the Senate this upcoming week. It is possible the Senate will make changes. President Trump has indicated he will sign the bill as soon as it is delivered to his desk.
The bill includes:
- Up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave benefits related to COVID-19 paid at 2/3 of regular pay rates after the first 14 days, which are unpaid
- Up to 80 hours of additional paid sick leave for employees affected by COVID-19
- Tax credits for employers to mitigate the impacts of the expanded leave provisions
- Free testing for SARS-CoV-2 during the emergency
More information about these programs can be found on our webpage dedicated to COVID-19.
We’ve gathered insights and guidance to help you continue to provide care during this difficult time. Animals that are sick or injured should receive veterinary attention. However, you might consider rescheduling or limiting services such as wellness exams, dental services, and elective procedures. If you're in an area with active COVID-19 cases, consider limiting in-person exams to acutely ill animals and/or emergencies.
Telemedicine can be an important tool to protect and monitor patients while preventing spread of COVID-19. With an already established veterinarian-client-patient relationship, telemedicine allows us to appropriately triage patients to ensure that only those really needing to be seen make the trip to the clinic with their owners. AVMA has resources to support your use of telemedicine at avma.org/Telemedicine.