Quick Links to COVID-19 Resources:
AVMA COVID-19 webpage
CDC Guidance to Veterinary Practices
Infection Control in Veterinary Practices
Conserving Mask and Gown Resources
Hawaii State Updates on COVID-19
Hawaiian Humane Society Updated Services
US Government Resources:
Join the Discussion
The state of Hawaii has indicated veterinarians and their staff are essential health care providers included in Tier 1b of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. To receive more information, fill out the Department of Health survey. The Department of Health will directly contact you to follow up. You may also check their website for updates.
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 Social Media Posts/Images
- 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.”
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.
- Highlights of the FFCR Act and the CARES Act (pdf)
- Section by section analysis of portions of CARES Act most relevant to veterinary practice (pdf)
- FAQ on Small Business Loans (pdf)
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tax credits – There are tax credits for employers intended to mitigate the impacts of the expanded leave provisions; and
- COVID-19 testing – It provides for free testing for the coronavirus during the emergency.
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.