Covid-19 Update as of March 25, 2020
The mission of the WV Board of Veterinary Medicine is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the general public and animals of West Virginia. The Board continues to monitor the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Board has recently received numerous calls and emails related to the practice of veterinary medicine during these challenging times. We want to reassure the veterinarian professionals in this State that we are here for support and to help with the protection of the public and their animals. Accordingly, the Board provides the following information and guidance.
The Board would ask that veterinary practices establish protocols that keep the safety of your staff and the public in mind, as well as the well-being of animals. You may find helpful information from the Centers for Disease Control using the following link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html.
Following the issuance of Governor Justice’s Executive Orders, the Board has taken action to help reduce human exposure while protecting the health of animals, including lifting restrictions on the use of telemedicine. These measures will remain in place during the declared State of Emergency for West Virginia and will no longer be applicable once the State of Emergency has been lifted. Included in these actions are:
- In the case of an emergency or illness, the requirement of veterinary-client-patient relationship prior to providing veterinary care has been temporarily waived. Telemedicine will be allowed in cases where clients, due to illness or other inability, cannot physically bring or have someone else transport their animal to a clinic. Please note that currently acceptable standards of care still apply, clients should be advised of the limitations of this practice, and it should be noted in the patient’s record that the encounter was conducted via telemedicine. The veterinarian must employ sound professional judgment to determine whether using telemedicine is suitable each time veterinary services are provided and only furnish medical advice or treatment via telemedicine when it is medically appropriate.
- The requirement for a physical exam within 12 months will be temporarily waived for the refill of medication. The Board recommends that only a limited supply of medication be dispensed with a requirement that the patient be examined as soon as possible, and prior to any additional medication refills, once the State of Emergency has been lifted. It should be noted that veterinarians must still follow all federal guidelines related to prescribing and dispensing controlled substances. Helpful information regarding the prescribing of controlled substances during the pandemic may be found at this link: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/coronavirus.html.
Additionally, the Board would encourage all veterinary practices to establish safety guidelines for their staff including the following;
- Social distancing
- Limiting the number of individuals in shared spaces
- Proper use of personal protective equipment ‘PPE”
- Hand washing
- Disinfection of surfaces and equipment
- Do NOT touch eyes, mouth, or face with unwashed hands
- No one should work while ill
- Follow guidelines established by the CDC
In order to maintain social distances and limit human interaction, it is recommended that veterinary practices use curbside assistance, where possible, with a designated staff member(s) going to client’s cars to bring patients’ inside and technicians and veterinarians communicating with clients via phone. The designated staff member(s) should utilize appropriate PPE.
The Board is recommending that elective procedures be postponed during the State of Emergency. Elective procedures are those which, if delayed, would not harm the overall health of the patient or the health, safety, and welfare of the public. This would include annual booster vaccinations for mature animals that have been receiving their vaccines on schedule for the past 3 years and elective surgeries. The veterinarian should employ sound professional judgment in determining whether a procedure is elective. For instance, decisions on spays and neuters should be made by the veterinarian using a risk-benefit analysis. In cases where the risk of unwanted pregnancy is limited (i.e. animals that are strictly indoors and supervised while outside and there are no other intact animals of the opposite sex in the household) it is recommended that these procedures be delayed to conserve limited surgical supplies and PPE.
As you know, this situation is fluid. Please continue to check the Board’s website for updated information during this crisis.