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A message from CPTA President, Rick Katz, regarding COVID-19

COVID-19

A message from CPTA President, Rick Katz, regarding COVID-19  updated March 25

Things have been moving very quickly on the Federal, State, and Local levels in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. CPTA is working hard to continue to provide timely information and resources that can help guide our decisions. Over the past week, and especially the last few days, you have received numerous directives from Federal, State, and Local officials with many local areas and counties implementing “Shelter in Place” directives. The guidance you receive from these sources remains crucial information on how to interact with your community on a personal level but continues to leave us with unanswered questions regarding professional interactions with our clients. These questions range from just making a decision on keeping a practice open to finding alternatives to in-person face-to-face patient interactions. This is especially true for those functioning independently outside of institutional, educational, or large company settings.

On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 directing all residents immediately to stay home, except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors and additional sectors critical to protect health and well-being of all Californians. On March 22, the State Public Health Officer posted a list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.” Physical therapists are specifically listed in the second bullet under Essential Workforce.

As an integral part of the healthcare delivery system in California, physical therapists (PT) and physical therapy assistants (PTA) provide many “essential” healthcare services. CPTA believes that each PT must determine if each patient requires their immediate in-person services and if a delay or postponement in providing these services would produce adverse outcomes. 

Here is some general guidance from CPTA:

  1. There is still no current directive that you should cease treating patients in your clinic even with some areas under Shelter in Place directives. Exemptions are included for visits to healthcare providers, and physical therapy is an essential medical service. Physical therapists should determine, on a case-by-case basis, if the care being provided warrants an in-person encounter and if such an encounter can be done in an environment that minimizes the potential risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Consideration should be given to delay in-person encounters in such cases that a delay won’t result in an adverse outcome. The underlying premise is to “do no harm.” You and the patient must determine if the risk of providing care outweighs the risks of not providing care at this time.
  2. Conduct proper screening procedures for your staff, patients and those individuals accompanying patients to their appointments. Those failing basic screening questions should be redirected back to their home. Identify high risk individuals and follow current guidelines using the information provided by the CDC and the CDPH.
  3. Maintain social distancing in your clinics. This would involve utilizing private treatment rooms and modifying schedules to reduce patient-to-patient interactions.
  4. Maintain the highest sanitary levels via frequent handwashing/sanitizer use and surface disinfection. Inform patients of your procedures via a posted notice at the time of check-in.
  5. Follow guidance from federal, local, and state agencies that may influence how you handle any of the above suggestions. The CDC has provided a resource for getting your practice ready.
  6. You might consider moving to telehealth where appropriate. Governor Newsom has ordered all California health plans and Medi-Cal managed care plans to reimburse for telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person visits. You should check with individual health plans to confirm that they have implemented this order before submitting a claim. Medicare has authorized e-visits. Information and resources for e-visits are available on the APTA website.
  7. For business and employment questions around the handling of this crisis, resources include: EDD, and Labor & Workforce Development Agency, and California Chamber of Commerce. You may also want to seek the advice of legal counsel. CPTA members can receive up to a 60-minute consultation with Simas and Associates. Members can call (916) 789-9800 or visit their website.
  8. SBA is now accepting COVID-19 disaster applications from small businesses and nonprofits. For more information, visit the CAL OES News or the Sacramento Business Journal.

APTA continues to be a great resource for regularly updated information, especially at the national level. Please bookmark and access regularly APTA’s Coronavirus page. CPTA has also created this COVID-19 Resource Page for California PTs and PTAs that will be updated regularly.