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Covid Thanksgiving

Thursday Troubleshooter: Family and COVID-19 precautions during the holidays

Nov. 19, 2020
This dental team member is concerned about a coworker's child coming home from a college hot spot. Should the dentist be informed? What precautions should the team take, if any?
This column is here to guide dental professionals with advice from the experts . . . because they’ve been there. Remember, you are not alone! Send your questions to [email protected]. Those who reach out will remain anonymous if their questions are used on DentistryIQ.

QUESTION: One of our staff members has a college student returning home for Thanksgiving. The student attends school in a hot spot. Does she need to let the doctor know about this situation? Should the person come to work or remain home? We know the student is going for a COVID test but what precautions should be taken?

ANSWER FROM JAMIE COLLINS, RDH-EA, clinical hygienist and RDH magazine author:
While COVID continues to run rampant in the US and across the world, we often find ourselves trusting the precautions of others. When we leave the dental practice, we don't know who is doing what and how careful they are, and exposure can happen anywhere. Many colleges are considered hot spots. Depending on the area, some students are testing before they come home to their families out of precaution, whereas others may not be testing. The big question is, does the student have known exposure, or is the student symptomatic? 

I do not feel it is the responsibility of the staff to inform the doctor about their holiday plans, and in reality, this doctor probably already knows or expects this team member's child to come home for the holidays. Many dental practices are small and often close and know about each other's lives to some extent. To reduce the risk of exposure, each dental office should be maintaining infection control precautions, whether with patients or other staff members. If the child is symptomatic and exposes the family, then by all means and recommendations the family should self-quarantine to prevent the spread until a diagnosis is made. 

While we are not able to make a decision for the other family or staff members, we can continue to do our best to protect ourselves and each other through scientific recommendations.

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