Letter from the President – April 2020

Aleisha Swartz, DVM
HVMA President

I hope this finds you, your ohana, staff and colleagues in good health. I don’t think any of us would have predicted the rapid changes that have occurred across the planet since the January newsletter. Normal as we knew it and our regular daily operations feel like a bit of a distant memory right now. But thankfully in every dark cloud there are many silver linings.

Veterinarians, like other public health stewards, are trained problem solvers and we have been working hard to solve our problems, from those at home to in our businesses and in our communities. I have been amazed seeing the innovation and effort by Hawaii veterinarians as they work to protect their teams, ensure care for animals in need and service to the people of Hawaii and beyond.

The HVMA has been working hard on behalf of members and the animals and citizens of Hawaii during the pandemic. We have proactively and successfully advocated for more flexible use of telemedicine during this challenging time to maintain care for animals while keeping people safe. We have set up a Facebook group for Hawaii veterinarians to keep in touch and share with one another and have hosted weekly virtual meetings where we discuss the current knowledge about SARS CoV-2, its impact on animals and practices. We responded to a request for assistance from HI-EMA and City and County of Honolulu to support pet owners during this emergency. During this time, we have spent many hours each week participating in HI-EMA and Honolulu Department of Emergency Management calls to ensure animal needs are met. The HVMA was able to secure a grant from Greater Good of 22 pallets of dog and cat food and 4 pallets of litter to be used for COVID-related emergency sheltering or for pet owners in need due to financial hardship so many are currently facing. The shipping to Hawaii was graciously donated by a local business and The Salvation Army was instrumental in coordinating the food delivery from California. It has been delivered to animal shelters and human food service distribution partners on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. We will continue to seek support for pet owners in financial distress so that they can continue to care for their family members during this challenging time. We know the importance of the human-animal bond is perhaps more important than ever during this time of social distancing.

I encourage you to reach out to us if there is anything, we can do to support your work and businesses. More than at any other time it is essential that we are caring for ourselves and doing what we can to stay healthy. Get lots of sleep, eat good food, enjoy the beautiful outdoors when you can and make time for self-care. We cannot care for others if we do not first care for ourselves. If you have been contemplating taking up meditation for a long time now and need a reason this is a good one. Just sitting quietly and breathing for a brief time can work wonders to help manage the stressful times a little bit better. Take care of your families and colleagues as well. Be kind to one another and give thanks to all of those working so hard to keep us safe. I feel so fortunate to be in a state that has done so much to protect its citizens. I also feel so fortunate to be surrounded by peers in a profession that is critical to preventing and solving this and the next zoonotic outbreak. The importance and need for veterinarians is greater now than ever.

On behalf of the board I wish you health and well-being in the rest of 2020 and beyond. I hope to hear more from you on what we can do to support you as a Hawaii veterinarian.

Aloha,
Aleisha Swartz

New Board Members Wanted!

2020 is an election year and we are looking for anyone interested in bringing new ideas and energy to our organization. The positions open for nominations include Pres-Elect, VP, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive VP, Oahu Reps and Kauai Rep. Please don’t be shy and contact the nominating committee for more info!

SARS-CoV-2 Animal Testing

Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV), or the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials. Nor is it recommended by key federal agencies, including the CDC and USDA.

Current expert understanding is that SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. There is currently no evidence that animals can transmit this virus to people. In rare instances, people have spread the virus to certain animals.

Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out more common causes for clinical signs in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2. The CDC, USDA, and other federal partners have created guidance, including a table of epidemiological risk factors and clinical features for SARS-CoV-2 in animals to help guide decisions regarding animal testing.

The decision to test an animal should be made collaboratively between the attending veterinarian and local, state, and/or federal public health and animal health officials after careful consideration of this guidance as provided.

AVMA-AAVLD-NASPHV-NASAHO Joint Statement on Animal Testing

Hawaii State Dept of Ag Guidelines on Animal Testing


Labs with SARS-CoV-2 PCR Animal Tests

COVID-19 and Your Pet

Updated April 5, 2020

How to Best Protect Your Pet

  • Stay home and follow social distancing orders from authorities. Studies show COVID-19 is often spread by those who are not yet showing symptoms of disease. Consider yourself infected and take the proper precautions to protect your community.
  • DO NOT take your pet to a veterinary clinic for wellness visits, vaccinations, or elective procedures (such as spay/neuter) that may be safely delayed for a few months.
  • If you are concerned with your pet’s health issue, CALL YOUR VET. Many vets are practicing telemedicine with established and new clients and patients, and will be able to make a tentative diagnosis and prescribe medication over the phone or after an online consult.
  • If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 but do not need to be hospitalized, you can still safely care for your pet. Practice good hygiene practices by washing your hands before and after interacting with your pet, not kissing or sharing food with your pet, and avoiding close contact (hugging, sleeping together). If possible, wear a facemask to reduce your spread of virus particles.

Make a Plan for Your Pet

  • You should identify a family member or friend who can care for your pets if you need to be hospitalized.
  • Have an appropriate carrier/crate for each pet, and enough food, medication, and supplies for at least two weeks.
  • Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. Including the prescription from your veterinarian is ideal.
  • Pets should have identification: Collar with ID tag and microchip.

COVID-19 and Pets

  • Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
  • Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or must care for your pet, wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

CDC Recommends Cloth Facemasks

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face coverings recommended are NOT surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

CDC: How to Protect Yourself
CDC: Info on Cloth Masks

General information about COVID-19:

  • The betacoronavirus that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV).
  • Person-to-person and community spread has been reported in numerous countries, including the United States.
  • Transmission primarily occurs when there is contact with an infected person’s bodily secretions, such as saliva or mucus droplets in a cough or sneeze. Transmission via touching a contaminated surface or object (i.e., a fomite) and then touching the mouth, nose, or possibly eyes is also possible, but appears to be a secondary route. Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g., countertops, door knobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g., paper money, pet fur) because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch.
  • There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by FDA to treat COVID-19, and there is no immunization available. 
  • Cases of COVID-19 and community spread are being reported in most states.
  • The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions is key.

Have Any Pets Been Infected with COVID-19?

On April 5th, the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in one tiger at a zoo in New York. Read full USDA article.

While two dogs (Hong Kong) and two cats (one in Belgium and one in Hong Kong) living with people diagnosed with COVID-19 have also been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, other dogs and cats also living with infected people remain uninfected. To date the CDC has not received any reports of pets or livestock becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations continue to agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that, under natural conditions, pets spread COVID-19 to people. To date, all animal cases have had no or mild symptoms that resolved with supportive care.

Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals out of an abundance of caution. The decision to test will be made collaboratively between local, state, and federal animal and public health officials. After the decision is made to test, state animal health officials will designate a state-appointed veterinarian, USDA-accredited veterinarian, or foreign animal disease diagnostician to collect the sample using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and sample collection methods.

Again, current expert understanding is that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. This supports a recommendation against testing of pets for SARS-CoV-2, except by official order. If dogs or cats present with respiratory signs, veterinarians should test for more common respiratory pathogens.

Pets in homes with owners with COVID-19: Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. If you are ill with COVID-19 have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a cloth facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet or service animal. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. Additional guidance on managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 is available from the CDC.

Keeping pets safe: For responsible pet owners, preparing in advance is key. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared, with at least two weeks’ worth of your pet’s food and any needed medications. Usually we think about emergency kits like this in terms of what might be needed for an evacuation, but it’s also good to have one prepared in the case of quarantine or self-isolation when you cannot leave your home.

While we are recommending these as good practices, it is important to remember that, to date, there have not been any reports of pets or other animals becoming ill with SARS-CoV-2, and there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.

Should any animal showing signs of respiratory illness be tested?

USDA and CDC do not recommend routine testing of animals for this virus. Because the situation is ever-evolving, public and animal health officials may decide to test certain animals out of an abundance of caution. The decision to test will be made collaboratively between local, state or federal public and animal health officials.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick from coronavirus (COVID-19)?

You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would with other people. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets. More information is available on how to keep people and animals safe at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html.

What should I do if I think my animal has the virus?

Call your veterinary clinic with any questions about your animal’s health. In order to ensure the veterinary clinic is prepared for the household animal, the owner should call ahead and arrange the hospital or clinic visit. Make sure to tell your veterinarian if your animal was exposed a person sick with COVID-19, and if your animal is showing any signs of illness. Veterinarians who believe an animal should be tested will contact state animal health officials, who will work with public and animal health authorities to decide whether samples should be collected and tested.

COVID-19 RESOURCES

Updated 5/6/2020

Quick Links to COVID-19 Resources:

AVMA COVID-19 webpage
CDC Guidance to Veterinary Practices
Infection Control in Veterinary Practices
Utilizing Telemedicine
Conserving Mask and Gown Resources
Hawaii State Updates on COVID-19
Hawaiian Humane Society Updated Services

US Government Resources:

Coronavirus Response Business Toolkit
Disaster Assistance Loans from the SBA
Disaster Help Desk for Small Businesses

Join the Discussion

https://www.facebook.com/groups/808COVIDvets/

COVID-19 Vet Resource Survey

Please help Hawaii better understand our veterinary resources (PPE, ventilator equipment, staff) by filling out our survey.

If you are looking to immediately donate any PPE or help with sewn cloth mask donations, please see UH School of Medicine’s Masks4HI webpage.

Guidance on Resuming Elective Services

Veterinary Medicine is an essential business that is part of the critical infrastructure of the United States. Many states did not place formal restrictions on the practice of veterinary medicine, while some states and localities instituted restrictions upon performing non-urgent or elective procedures.

During this crisis, veterinarians continue to exercise their professional judgment as to which services and procedures are urgent or potentially urgent (including those that may be necessary to protect certain vulnerable animal populations, prevent adverse effects on public health, or ensure the safety and security of the food supply if not performed) and which might be postponed. The AVMA also developed case management and triage decision trees to help veterinarians determine urgent and potentially urgent cases, using their professional judgment; support social distancing; and assist in conserving personal protective equipment (PPE).

At this time, resuming non-urgent or elective veterinary services is appropriate. There is a backlog of demand for elective or non-urgent veterinary care that is important for the health and welfare of animals. Failure to provide comprehensive  veterinary care places both animal and public health at risk. Veterinarians have adapted to conserve PPE that is in short supply for the delivery of human healthcare, and the original concern that performing non-urgent or elective veterinary procedures would negatively impact the availability of PPE for human healthcare providers has largely been ameliorated. Veterinarians should have also incorporated creative and effective measures that are consistent with social distancing recommendations and limit person-to-person exposure for staff and clients.

As veterinarians resume providing non-urgent/elective services, veterinary practices should continue invoking strategies that conserve PPE and support social distancing as appropriate and practical. Some measures that have been adopted, as appropriate to practice type, include:

  • Triaging appointments by phone or videoconference, and handling via telemedicine as medically appropriate and as permissible under federal and state law and guidance on what is permissible during the COVID-19 disaster declaration.
  • Inquiring as to whether the client or caretaker is ill with, or may have been exposed to, COVID-19. If so, encouraging someone other than the ill client to bring the patient to the hospital, if in-person care is necessary, or providing care via telemedicine if medically appropriate and permissible under federal and state law and guidance on what is permissible during the COVID-19 disaster declaration.
  • Scheduling appointments so that patient flow can be managed, and social distancing of clients maintained.
  • Restricting the number of clients waiting in the lobby for their appointments and enforcing social distancing.
  • Directly admitting clients and patients to examination rooms from their cars, rather than having them wait in the lobby.
  • Curb-side pickup of patients, keeping clients out of clinics except when required. This includes having clients remain in their vehicles in the parking lot while the patient is evaluated, with veterinarian/client communication by phone or videochat.
  • Curbside delivery of medication refills and veterinary diets
  • Encouraging clients who travel to the clinic to don cloth face coverings.
  • Having staff, rather than owners, hold animals during examinations.
  • Extra attention to cleaning of often-touched surfaces, including an increase in frequency.
  • Adoption of PPE conservation strategies, including extended use of disposable PPE (as appropriate) and replacement of disposable PPE with reusable and appropriately maintained/sterilized cloth gowns and masks.
  • Conducting daily health assessments or self-evaluations of employees, requiring staff to stay home if sick, and immediately sending staff home if they become ill while at work.
  • Dividing clinic staff into teams, so that if a team member is known to be exposed to or becomes ill with COVID-19, it largely localizes risk to that team while allowing important veterinary services to continue to be provided.
  • Diligently apply practices to prevent the spread of infectious disease, such as frequent handwashing and wearing gloves whenever appropriate.

CDC Guidance to Veterinarians

CDC has published new Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Veterinary Clinics during the COVID-19 Response. This guidance is for veterinarians and veterinary staff providing care to companion animals. The intent of this guidance is to facilitate preparedness and to ensure practices are in place in a veterinary clinical setting to help people and animals stay safe and healthy.

SARS-CoV-2 Animal Testing

Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is NOT recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD), National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV), or the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials. Nor is it recommended by key federal agencies, including the CDC and USDA.

Current expert understanding is that SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. There is currently no evidence that animals can transmit this virus to people. In rare instances, people have spread the virus to certain animals.

Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out more common causes for clinical signs in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2. The CDC, USDA, and other federal partners have created guidance, including a table of epidemiological risk factors and clinical features for SARS-CoV-2 in animals to help guide decisions regarding animal testing.

The decision to test an animal should be made collaboratively between the attending veterinarian and local, state, and/or federal public health and animal health officials after careful consideration of this guidance as provided.

AVMA-AAVLD-NASPHV-NASAHO Joint Statement on Animal Testing

Telemedicine Expansion Order

On March 29th, Governor Ige signed an executive order allowing veterinarians to practice telemedicine without a previously established Veterinary-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR) or physical examination of the patient to establish a VCPR. This order remains in effect only during the COVID-19 emergency period. Read full executive order here.

We are extremely appreciative that our local government is enabling us to continue to care for patients while we respect the current social distancing and shelter-in-place orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. AVMA has laid out specific guidance on Telemedicine.

On March 24th, FDA announced that they are taking steps to temporarily suspend enforcement of certain federal VCPR requirements as it relates to allowing veterinary telemedicine during this period of social distancing. This change only affects regulations regarding extralabel drug use in animals and veterinary feed directives. Read press announcement here.

AVMA Resources

Interim recommendations for intake of companion animals from households where humans with COVID-19 are present

Considerations for food animal veterinarians during the COVID-19 pandemic

AVMA Social Media Posts/Images

Available Webinars

  • CARES Act small business loan programs
    Learn how to prepare for the new Paycheck Protection Program launching Friday, and understand how it compares with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
  • COVID-19 Insurance Claims and CARES Act Leave Provisions
    Understand the paid leave and unemployment insurance provisions in the stimulus package and how they might apply to you and your business in this webinar with insurance and employment law experts – sponsored by AVMA LIFE and AVMA PLIT.

Essential vs. Non-Essential Services

HVMA and AVMA are working to educate our state and local governments on the essential services that veterinarians provide. We strongly discourage veterinarians from offering non-essential services during this period as this undermines our efforts. Continuing to offer or promote non-essential services during this period of government-mandated social distancing increases the risk of virus transmission to our staff, our clients, and our communities at large. Additionally, continuing to perform non-essential procedures and surgeries uses up limited resources that are in short supply and may be necessary for essential procedures and surgeries in the near future. Please consider the serious consequences of continuing practice as usual in the face of the rapid and undetected spread of COVID-19. Below are several guidelines to help you determine which services are essential.

“As restrictions in elective or non-essential services are put in place, either voluntarily or through government or regulatory body mandates, careful consideration of what is considered essential is needed. Essential procedures include those required to alleviate animal pain and suffering, to prevent imminent threat of death of the animal, and matters pertaining to public health (e.g. vaccination against rabies). Other considerations may be involved, including supply availability, the ability of the clinic to practice appropriate social distancing, and factors related to management of specific cases either in the clinic or at home.

“Recommendations may change based on our growing understanding of this disease, changes in messaging from governments and regulators, and as this pandemic evolves. Veterinarians and owners must understand this is a fluid situation and the goal cannot be maintaining “business as usual” but rather providing the optimal outcomes for animals, owners and veterinary facilities, while doing our part to support social distancing efforts. Any consultations that do not absolutely require physical contact with the animal should be done via telemedicine.”

Read full OVMA guidelines including owner risk assessment and social distancing in practice (pdf).

WSAVA Vaccine Guidelines During COVID-19

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has released guidelines advising veterinarians on routine prophylactic vaccination (pdf) during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

DIY N95 Replacement Mask

The University of Florida Health’s department of anesthesiology has developed 2 prototypes for respirator masks that can be produced in large quantities using materials already found in hospitals and medical facilities. The makeshift mask uses Halyard H600 two-ply spun polypropylene that cannot be penetrated by water, bacteria, or particles. It blocks 99.9% of particulates, making the masks about 4% more effective at blocking particulate material than the N95 masks. Read more and see tutorials here.

Federal CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was passed and signed on Friday March 27th. The CARES Act seeks to:

  • Support businesses to retain their employees and maintain operations
  • Expand unemployment insurance benefits in light of COVID-19 emergency
  • Provide individual support

AVMA has provided resources here to help veterinarians understand and interpret this legislation.

Statewide Stay-At-Home Order 3/25 – 4/30

Effective March 25 through April 30, 2020, everyone in the State of Hawai‘i is required to stay at home or in their place of residence. This supplement to Governor David Ige’s emergency proclamation was announced on March 23, 2020. Read more here.

Under the proclamation, individuals may leave their home or place of residence only for essential activities, to engage in essential businesses and operations, and only if their work cannot be conducted through remote technology from home.

Veterinarians are currently considered essential businesses. Please continue to refrain from offering non-essential services during this period so we can maintain this status. Offering or promoting non-essential services uses up limited resources that are in short supply and may be necessary for essential procedures and surgeries in the near future. Additionally, encouraging clients to come into public spaces during this period of government-mandated social distancing increases the risk of virus transmission to our staff, clients, and communities at large.

Self-Quarantine for Travelers Arriving After 3/26

Effective, Thursday, March 26, 2020, all persons entering the State of Hawai‘i must self-quarantine for 14 days or for the duration of their stay in Hawai‘i, whichever is shorter. Residents returning to Hawaii must also self-quarantine in a designated location in their residence. If you are assisting with pet travel into the state of Hawaii, please notify pet owners of the self-quarantine requirement.

The Rabies Quarantine Station in Halawa Valley is currently closed to visitors. Pets may be released from quarantine as soon as the mandatory quarantine period is completed.
Details on self-quarantine procedures (pdf)

State and Federal Tax Relief

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and State of Hawaii Department of Taxation have postponed the due dates for payment and filing of 2019 Federal and State income tax returns to July 2020. Additional action is not needed by Income taxpayers to participate in this tax relief program.
IRS Website
State of Hawaii Department of Taxation Website
State of Hawaii Department of Taxation Announcement 2020-01 (pdf)

Am I Doing the Right Thing?

During this time of undetected spread of COVID-19, please protect your staff, your clients, and your community. If you or one of your staff becomes ill or is known to be exposed to COVID-19, in addition to concerns about your and their wellbeing, there is the possibility that you will be asked by public health officials to temporarily close your practice for personnel isolation and facility cleaning.

With this risk in mind, veterinarians should work to reschedule all nonessential appointments so as to limit public exposure. This includes wellness visits for vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, routine dental procedures, and anything that can be safely delayed for a few weeks to months.

Veterinary staff members who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should stay at home and should not return to work until they are free of fever (fever is defined as a temperature of 100.4F or higher, using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicine (e.g., cough suppressants).

In addition, veterinary clinics should be aware that the limit on statewide gatherings of 10 people applies to activity in their clinics.

Telemedicine and emergency teletriage within the context of an existing VCPR can be extremely helpful in limiting your staff’s exposure, and enable you to support and monitor the health of your patients and conform to local requirements, while preventing the potential spread of COVID-19. Conducting pre-visit triage can help protect you and your staff as you prioritize and determine which patients need to be seen at the clinic.

Please do the right thing to limit the spread of this disease in our community.

COVID-19 and Pets

  • Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
  • If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
  • Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.

Managing Veterinary Practice in a Pandemic:

Multiple universities and practices have implemented the following practices to protect the health of their employees, clients, and surrounding communities:

  • Limit patient care to acutely ill animals and/or emergencies. Animals that are sick or injured should receive veterinary attention.
  • Reschedule existing new and recheck appointments that are considered non-essential (unlikely to experience significant harm if treatment is not administered in a timely manner).
  • Reschedule elective procedures.
  • Utilize telemedicine to assess patient condition and needs.
  • If an animal needs to be seen in person, a healthy family member or friend should bring their sick animal to a veterinary hospital or clinic.
  • Have clients drop off their animal and remain in their cars during appointments.
  • When meeting clients, veterinary team members should wear appropriate PPE.
  • In light of limited supply, be strategic in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gowns, and gloves.
  • If a mobile or house call veterinarian must examine an animal in a home where someone is ill with COVID-19 and no other options are available, consult with local public health officials for guidance. Appropriate PPE and access to handwashing and disinfection materials should be considered in all cases.

Keeping Your Veterinary Team Healthy:

  • Veterinary healthcare team members who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should stay at home and should not return to work until they are free of fever (100.4F or higher, using an oral thermometer) and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicine (e.g., cough suppressants).
  • Communicate about COVID-19 with your team. Flexible sick leave policies are important and team members should be made aware of these policies. Team members who appear to have symptoms of acute respiratory illness upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should be separated from other team members and sent home immediately.
  • If a team member is confirmed to have COVID-19, the veterinary practice owner should inform other team members of their possible exposure to COVID-19, but maintain confidentiality as required by law. Team members who are exposed to another employee with confirmed COVID-19 should contact their physician or local health department to determine how best to proceed. 
  • Surfaces in the veterinary clinic/hospital that are touched frequently, such as workstations, keyboards, doorknobs, countertops, and stethoscopes, should be cleaned often and wiped down by employees with disposable wipes between cleanings.
  • Provide no-touch disposal receptacles.
  • Place hand sanitizers in multiple locations, including in exam rooms, offices, and conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Team members should avoid close contact (within approximately 6 feet) with other people who are ill.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

On March 18, 2020, the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). 

The final bill included some significant policy changes from the original proposals that were intended to address both the impacts on small businesses and individuals. We expect lawmakers to continue to address economic measures for small businesses and individuals through future legislative packages.

Lawmakers and the Administration remain engaged in ongoing negotiations to produce additional measures, and AVMA continues to ensure the concerns of the profession are heard as this dynamic situation unfolds.

The final bill includes:

  1. FMLA COVID-19 benefit – This benefit provides up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave benefits related to the coronavirus to be paid at 2/3 of regular pay rates after the first 10 days, which are unpaid. The leave is only available for child care in the event of school closure or if the employee’s child care provider is unavailable due to the public health emergency.
  2. COVID-19 sick leave – This benefit applies up to 80 hours of additional paid sick leave for employees related to the coronavirus. There are daily and aggregate caps on the sick leave benefit of either $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate if the employee is sick or quarantined, and $200 per day and $2,000 in aggregate if the employee is caring for someone else.
  3. Potential exemption – There is language granting authority to the Department of Labor to create regulations that can exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the leave requirements when the imposition of the requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
  4. Tax credits – There are tax credits for employers intended to mitigate the impacts of the expanded leave provisions; and
  5. COVID-19 testing – It provides for free testing for the coronavirus during the emergency.

Read more about the bill here.

3/24/2020 – The Department of Labor just released Frequently Asked Questions documents on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

1) DOL FAQ
2) DOL Fact Sheet for Employers
3) DOL Fact Sheet for Employees

  • Significantly, the FAQ DOL indicates the effective date for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is April 1, 2020, and applies to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. 
  • For the exemption for business with fewer than 50 employees when providing the leave under the act would jeopardize the viability of the business, DOL advises that for now employers should document why they believe this to be the case.  DOL then indicates that more detail will be forthcoming in regulations.

Legislative Update – Jan 2020

HVMA has introduced HB 2528 and SB 2985 in the 2020 legislative session. These bills modify Hawaii’s veterinary practice act to 1) provide immunity in the absence of gross negligence to veterinarians who provide emergency care to an animal, and 2) clarify that the duty of a veterinarian includes reporting to law enforcement any cases of animal injury or death where there is reasonable cause to believe that it relates to dog fighting or animal abuse, while granting veterinarians immunity from any civil liability for such reporting. These additions to our veterinary practice act would put Hawaii in line with much of the rest of the United States. A big mahalo to Representative Hashem and Senator Baker for sponsoring the introduction of these bills to the legislature. Please thank them, particularly if you are from their districts!

1/28 Update: First round of SUPPORT testimony needed on this measure by Thursday 1/30! Submit online testimony here. Contact us if you have questions or comments on this measure, or if you are able to go down to the capitol and testify in person.

Veterinary Leadership Conference 2020 Report

David Gans, DVM
Hawaii Kai Veterinary Clinic

This year’s Veterinary Leadership Conference (VLC) was a great experience that I would recommend to all veterinarians of any experience or position in Hawaii. The VLC is organized in a way to help “rising leaders, presiding leaders, and experienced leaders” in private practice and professional organizations such as the HVMA.

A big focus on the leadership presentations this year was on personal wellness. A growing concern that the AVMA is trying to address by spreading awareness, providing resources for outreach and management of mental health conditions/concerns, and education in techniques for prevention and risk reduction.

The HVMA’s generous support was a great experience and I would encourage any newer veterinarians to reach out for the 2021 VLC for the opportunity to attend with support. The AVMA and HVMA both are bending over backwards to support our amazing profession and it’s our role to reach out and use all of their resources.

David Gans, DVM

Letter from the President – Jan 2020

Aleisha Swartz, DVM
Aleisha Swartz, DVM
HVMA President

Hau‵oli Makahiki Hou!

Our 66th annual conference was a great success. Thank you to all who attended and those present in spirit. It was a time to catch up with old friends, meet new colleagues and learn in our ever-changing field. The connections with one another are a large part of our “why” as the HVMA and we are fortunate to have such a connected community. If you want to learn more about finding your “why” I highly recommend watching Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on the subject, or even better, read the book Start with Why. If you have suggestions for future speaker topics, entertainment or anything you think would make the conference even more incredible in the future, please let us know.

Membership renewal is now open and I encourage you to renew early and encourage your colleagues to do so as well. Don’t forget that new graduates are eligible for waived or reduced fees depending on your graduation year! Your dues enable us to host great CE in addition to our other efforts including providing scholarships for veterinary and veterinary technician students, advocate on behalf of the veterinary profession in Hawaii, and give back to our community.

Some of the activities we are working on this winter are monitoring the state legislative session, participating in the AVMA HOD January meeting, judging at the upcoming 63rd Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair (HSSEF), and reviewing our wellness committee functions. If you are interested in participating in any of these functions, please let us know as we can always use more volunteers!

On behalf of the board I wish you good health and well-being in the upcoming decade and I hope to hear more from you on what we can do to support you as a Hawaii veterinarian.

Aloha,
Aleisha Swartz

Letter from the President – Oct 2019

Aleisha Swartz, DVM

Dear Friends,

I hope to see each of you soon at our annual conference at the Hilton Waikiki Beach on November 7-10, 2019. We are fortunate to host AVMA President John Howe and District 10 representative George Bishop at the conference this year. Dr. Howe’s areas of focus for his tenure as president are member needs, veterinary technicians and One Health. Please give them a warm welcome if you see them. Even if you are not attending the conference for CE be sure to join us for our annual meeting at noon on Saturday.

Mental health and wellbeing concerns for veterinary professionals have been in the national news recently. Awareness of the increased risk for burnout, substance abuse, depression and suicide ideation in our profession is hopefully a first step toward finding solutions for this crisis. The AVMA has many resources for veterinarians on personal and workplace wellness, and the HVMA has a wellness committee to assist members in need. 

In 1976, Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute in the US, developed a model of wellness that included six dimensions of health: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and social. Since then others have added three more to create the nine dimensions of wellbeing: financial, creative and environmental. Each dimension is interconnected and collectively contributes to our overall wellbeing, and when one area is lacking, the others and overall wellbeing are affected. I encourage you to follow the links to read and learn more about these areas and take a self-assessment to identify areas where you might focus your self-care.

For this message I want to focus on the social dimension. One stated purpose of the HVMA is to promote the spirit of community among members of the veterinary profession. Our annual conference is a time to get together and catch up on what is happening with one another: the success and challenges of our friends and colleagues we may not see as often as we would like to. It is also a chance to make new friends and welcome new colleagues into our community. Brené Brown, best-selling author and published researcher writes the following in the introduction to her book Daring Greatly: “the surest thing I took away from my BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. in social work is this: Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” This includes connection with colleagues in the workplace. In Dare to Lead she says this about her research: “Daring Leaders must care for and be connected to the people they lead. The data made clear that care and connection are irreducible requirements for wholehearted, productive relationships between leaders and team members.” She defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” As veterinarians, we are all leaders and we must strive to build connection in our work and social lives to build resiliency.

I hope you can all take a moment during the next month to talk story and build those connections with one another. By doing this we will be taking a step in the right direction to improve our well-being. Please reach out to a colleague, friend, or professional if you are suffering. We are here to help one another. And if you are interested in learning more so that you can help those at risk, visit the AVMA’s website on Question-Persuade-Refer (QPR) training. There is currently a pilot program that will provide training to learn how to identify and refer colleagues who are at risk.

Aloha,

Aleisha Swartz, DVM
President, Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association

Letter from the President – Aug 2019

Aleisha Swartz, DVM

Dear Colleagues,

Registration is now open for our 66th Annual Conference, which will be held November 7-10, 2019 at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel. We are again offering RACE-approved CE with a great speaker and subject lineup including, dentistry, infectious disease, internal medicine, soft tissue surgery and more. We will also be offering a daylong equine track on Friday Nov 8th for the large animal practitioners. Register early and save.

The annual meeting for HVMA members will be Saturday, November 9 and all members are welcome and encouraged to join us even if you cannot attend the entire meeting. And this year’s cocktail hour and social on Saturday evening will be another great time for all, don’t miss it.

Another thing the HVMA board has been involved with is updating our agreement with Hi-EMA to provide support to those in need in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency. Did you know we participate at the state level as advisors on animal-related emergency sheltering? If you are interested in being involved with disaster assistance and planning, please fill out a quick survey or email us. Even if you are not able to volunteer, prepare yourself, your family and practice in case of a natural disaster. The AVMA has a disaster resource page with many great resources https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/disaster/Pages/disaster-aid-veterinarians.aspx.

Finally, be sure to visit our classifieds if you are looking to advertise your services as a relief veterinarian or are in need of a veterinarian or other staff member. This is a fantastic resource available for members!

Aloha,

Aleisha Swartz, DVM
President, Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association