Insights From Our Editors

New CDC Masking Guidelines: What Do I Do In My Office?

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

June 23, 2021

The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on masking for fully vaccinated people may be confusing. Masking is still recommended, even for fully vaccinated people, while in healthcare settings.

Does that mean all patients should continue wearing masks in your office? Or does that mean patients should be mandated to wear masks while receiving pretesting and their exam with the doctor, but not while in the reception area and optical? Review of Optometric Business and Women in Optometry collaborated on a poll. Here is what we learned about how you are approaching masking in your offices, along with guidance on doing it so the practice and patients are kept happy while being protected.

Two important questions were asked in our poll, and here they are with the key responses:

Question: For the doctors and team members, how do you plan to proceed?

Answers:    83.3% Clinical and optical staff will continue to wear masks.
7.5% Neither clinical nor optical is required to wear masks.
6.1% We have already stopped wearing masks.
1.8% Clinical staff wears masks, optical staff is not required to wear masks.

Question: For patients and optical customers, how do you plan to proceed?

Answers:    69.6 % Patients are asked to wear masks in the clinic and in the optical.
12.0% Patients will not be required to wear masks.
8.7% We have already stopped requiring patients to wear masks.
6.3% Patients will be asked to wear masks in the clinic but not the optical.
0.2% We are recommending that patients wear masks but not requiring it.

The largest answer about how the doctors and team members plan to proceed is that clinical and optical staff will continue to wear masks. There is still some fear in the general public, which can be seen in the fact that practices are not completely back to pre-pandemic patient exam numbers, so doctors and team members still wearing masks speaks to the messaging that we are a “safe” place to come.

 For the question, how do you plan to proceed with patients and optical customers, the largest answer is that patients are asked to wear masks in the clinic and in the optical. The news is reporting that there is a new variant of the COVID strain that is out there, and there are many questions about what that means. Moving forward with caution is a reasonable way to go.

We understand the intellectual answer that if you are not in one of the at-risk populations, and if you have been vaccinated, then the odds that you will die from COVID are very small. But we also understand the emotional argument that “I’m frightened that I might carry the disease to one of my loved ones that happens to be in one of the at-risk populations.”

Primum non nocere is translated as “first, do no harm.” This is one of the principal precepts of bioethics everyone in healthcare is taught in school. We should follow that principle by continuing to mask in the practice. Our poll shows that is what the majority of people who responded to the poll believe and practice.

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