Governor Abbott announced today a relaxation of restrictions placed on healthcare providers that were put in place to ensure hospital capacity and supplies would be available to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
In a new Executive Order GA 15 that essentially replaces GA 09 which expires midnight April 21, it appears at first blush that regular healthcare services including dental might be allowed to start up again.
UPDATE: This story has been revised with legal input to update the possible interpretation of this order.
However, upon closer scrutiny, the order states "any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete ... the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster." We're not totally sure how this last section would apply to dentists.
It appears likely that dental offices with their own PPE sources (that is, offices that rely on their usual dental supply companies and not hospitals or public sources like State emergency services) could reasonably serve their dental patients without depriving hospitals of the PPE they might need to treat COVID patients. If so, dental offices with their own PPE may be able to resume regular business as early as April 22.
The TSBDE held a meeting earlier today, and discussed the possibility of extending the "emergency dental treatment only" decree until May 8, 2020. It is unclear what action, if any, the Board took. That Board meeting, which was scheduled to be broadcast over the internet, apparently suffered from high traffic volume and technical difficulties.
However, it seems likely the Board will provide more information soon, in advance of the midnight April 21 expiration date of GA-09. We have emailed the TSBDE for clarification on its interpretation of the Governor's Executive Order GA-15, and its actions in its meeting today.
We are also monitoring the TSBDE website for any notices, and will update our email list when more information is available.
So, we are not sure at this time that dental offices will only be able to provide emergency services to patients after April 21 when GA 09 expires or they can go back to providing regular dental services.
The critical passages from the order are:
All licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities shall postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without timely performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient's physician; provided, however, that this prohibition shall not apply to either of the following:
- any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster; or
- any surgery or procedure performed in a licensed health care facility that has certified in writing to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission both:
(1) that it will reserve at least 25% of its hospital capacity for treatment of COVID-19 patients, accounting for the range of clinical severity of COVID- 19 patients; and (2) that it will not request any personal protective equipment from any public source, whether federal, state, or local, for the duration of the COVID19 disaster.