There have been many developments over the last week. SFDS has been working on your behalf on many fronts and not all of you have had access to the same information, so I would like to inform all of you of our activities.
First, I want to thank you for your fabulous response to the petition asking the city/county to allow us to reopen. Two hundred and fifty-nine of you responded in 6 hours. We got that letter in front of the proper leadership in San Francisco and the first Directive allowing us to open came through. Unfortunately, up to May 19, the San Francisco leaders were not responding to our phone calls and emails asking for PPE for our members and for clarifications on Health Orders that were confusing and contradictory. Directives were coming without notice, being changed in the middle of the night without even a change in the number of the Directive.
SFDS was simultaneously attempting to secure fit testing for its members and also continuing our efforts to secure PPE from the county. We were facing a catch-22. SFDPH was requiring us to be fit tested before they would release PPE, including N95 masks, yet members needed the N95 masks to be fit tested. We didn’t know what type of masks they had and even if we did get that information, we did not have a supply of masks for fit testing.
Things started changing when many of you responded to our Call to Action to write City Officials and the Health Officer directly. While we had received responses from City Hall, we had not heard from the Health Director or the Health Officer. Your efforts helped us with opening the lines of communication and on May 19 the SF Health Officer, Dr. Tomas Aragon, contacted me. We had a fruitful conversation and we suddenly had access to a supply of N-95 masks for the fit testing that we were arranging for the members. We have made significant progress in getting free PPE (masks, gowns, shields) from the city. As I write this, I hope that I’m not giving you false hope on this PPE, as we do not have it yet. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. CDA is getting PPE supplies for TDSC from the state and we don’t know how this will impact our negotiations.
We currently have Health Directive 2020-09b that is requiring that non-emergency patients be tested for Covid-19 prior to having any dental procedures that produce aerosol. We have heard loudly and clearly that many of you oppose this requirement. The changes forced on us by this pandemic have made operating a viable dental practice very difficult, and this testing requirement is an addition that introduces yet another barrier and cost to a very stressful situation. We have also heard from some of you that you are concerned that dentistry may be trying to do too much too soon, yet you are concerned about the oral health of your patients. This, too, is a valid concern.
We are having good communications with Dr. Aragon and are in the process of setting up a meeting with Dr. Aragon and our SFDS officers. We hope that with continued open lines of communication, we will be able to change parts of this latest Health Directive and have input into future Health Orders and Directives.
Thank you for your continued support. I will continue to update you on our progress.