Dentists need to prepare now for second wave of COVID-19
LEIPZIG, Germany: Researchers and health bodies around the world are advising health practitioners in the northern hemisphere to actively prepare for an expected second wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections. According to the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS), the summer months must be a period of intense preparation for a worst-case public health scenario this winter. So what can dental practices do?
The AMS’s report, Preparing for a Challenging Winter 2020/21, reminds health and social care practitioners that the need for healthcare undergoes seasonal fluctuations, peaking in winter. It states that four additional challenges may make winter even tougher this year for the healthcare sector: a large resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 infections, disruptions to healthcare systems caused by efforts to reduce the transmission of the virus, a backlog of non-SARS-CoV-2-related healthcare issues resulting from reduced healthcare capacities, and a possible influenza epidemic.
“To reduce your risk of running out of necessary supplies, we recommend keeping a month’s worth of inventory on hand” – IndepenDENT Dental Solutions
So how can dental clinics prepare? In the US, where infection rates are surging, IndepenDENT Dental Solutions has urged dentists to create a contingency plan for personal protective equipment (PPE), to devise a plan for communicating with patients and to provide additional training to staff. In an online bulletin, the organisation advised practices that identifying multiple reliable sources for obtaining high-quality PPE would reduce their risk of running low on the essential items. “To reduce your risk of running out of necessary supplies, we recommend keeping a month’s worth of inventory on hand and allowing up to two weeks to receive your orders,” the organisation suggested.
It said that staff training will help to ensure that common and working areas in dental clinics are properly disinfected and that minimising the risk of transmission in clinics will require staff to be trained on how to prepare for potential situations of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and on how to respond in these situations.
IndepenDENT said that communicating effectively with patients will also be crucial during a second wave of the virus. “This should include any changes to office protocols, PPE that will be worn during their visit, what to do in the event they develop COVID-19 symptoms prior to their appointment and how postponed or cancelled appointments will be handled due to a secondary outbreak.” Verbal interactions with patients and communications provided through signage, websites and other digital means will help to ensure and enhance safety protocols, IndepenDENT said.
According to a study published in Nature in June, lockdown measures adopted by 11 European countries to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2 averted more than three million COVID-19 deaths. The researchers, from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, warned, however, that less than 4% of the combined populations of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK had been infected with the virus by the beginning of May. “We are very far from herd immunity […] We are only at the beginning of this epidemic, and claims that it’s all over can be firmly rejected,” said Dr Seth Flaxman, one of the authors of the study.
Warning against complacency during the summer months in Europe, the World Health Organization has urged people to stop thinking about the virus in terms of seasons and waves. “It’s going to be one big wave,” a spokesperson said. “It’s going to go up and down a bit. The best thing is to flatten it and turn it into just something lapping at your feet,” she added.