TSBDE COVID Emergency Rule Expires; New COVID-19 OSHA Standards
The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners’ COVID-19 emergency rule dictated the minimum standards for safe dental practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Versions of the emergency rule have been in place since March 2020, with the most recent version being in place since March 2021, The emergency rule included, among other things, patient and dental staff screening for COVID-19 symptoms and wearing an N95 respirator, KN95 respirator, or their substantial equivalent, within 6 feet of any and all aerosol generating procedures.
The dental board announced during its June 18th meeting that the COVID-19 emergency rule will expire today. However, dentists are encouraged to continue following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 “Guidance for Dental Settings” to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Although Governor Greg Abbott lifted the state mask mandate, dentists can still choose to require patients, staff, and those accompanying patients to the dental practice to wear a mask and follow all CDC COVID-19 safe-practice standards for dental offices.
On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 in healthcare settings. The final rule version has not yet been published. For the full document, please see 29 CFR 1910, Subpart U. Although dentistry is largely exempt from the new OSHA standard, the American Dental Association (ADA) notes that dental practices must follow key provisions such as pre-appointment patient screenings for COVID-19, screening anyone entering the dental practice prior to entry and denying entry to anyone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, and having a written COVID-19 plan. For details on compliance with OSHA’s COVID-19 temporary standard in healthcare settings, visit the ADA’s “OSHA COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard.”
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TSBDE Adopts New COVID-19 Emergency Rule
On February 19, 2021, the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) voted unanimously (2 absentees) to adopt a new COVID-19 emergency rule—22 Texas Administrative Code §108.7(16). The new emergency rule is in keeping with Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order (GA-19) dictating the minimum standards for safe dental practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless Governor Abbott lifts the COVID-19 disaster declaration, the final new COVID-19 emergency rule will be in effect for 120 days. At that time, the dental board will reconvene and decide whether to extend the rule for an additional 60 days.
Highlights of the new emergency rule include:
- No longer prioritizing that patient care be performed by dental health care personnel not at high risk for contracting COVID-19;
- No longer requiring the removal of magazines, reading materials, toys, and other objects that may be touched by others;
- No longer requiring COVID-19 patient screening by phone during scheduling. Patients must still be screened during patient confirmation prior to appointment;
- Nolonger prohibiting patient companions. Companions should continue to be screened for COVID-19 during patient check-in;
- No longer recommending a pre-procedure rinse; and
- Changing the time for a patient to contact the dental office if they experience COVID-19 symptoms from 10 days to 7 days after the dental appointment.