When Jennifer Tabiza, OD, of Westchester Eyecare Center in Los Angeles, California, heard that a doctor and a technician in her practice tested positive for coronavirus, she thought through the variables and made the call on Wednesday, Jan. 5, to close the practice through Saturday. “There’s a spike in cases in California at the moment, and my thinking is – when there’s a spike, lay low for a second.”
She can argue the other side of the debate: perhaps the omicron spike will help the community reach herd immunity faster or perhaps it’s protective against getting the more dangerous delta variant. But she doesn’t like the idea of potentially being the exposure source for her patients. “If we stay open, there’s a chance we infect more people. I’d rather close and have no one be sick than take that risk,” she says.
Dr. Tabiza will get herself tested. She realizes that with two positive co-workers as well as other notifications she has gotten about exposure possibilities, “I’m either positive and asymptomatic or it’s still coming. But I’ll presume I’m positive,” she says.
Closing for four days and encouraging her employees to stay home may help slow the spread in her network. She also recognizes the financial implications but compares a short break now to the much bigger hit that she and other practice owners had to take early in the COVID-19 closures that lasted weeks. “If holding off on being together now keeps more of my staff from getting sick, then that’s good. We can be operational again sooner, and getting everyone tested and closing is not going to add up to a huge financial loss,” she says.
DOING WHAT THEY CAN
On the first day that she closed, one technician who is awaiting her test results but is asymptomatic went into the office. She was the only one there, completing orders and rescheduling patients for next week. Most patients, by the way, were happy to reschedule because they’re hesitant about being out in the midst of this spike. If this technician tests negative, she may return to the office to provide core functions for the rest of the week. Others are taking the days off a part of the sick leave or personal time off policy that Dr. Tabiza provides employees.
Since Dr. Tabiza uses the Weave communication toolbox, she can log in from home and hear patients’ messages. She realizes that the team will have to work a little harder next week to accommodate the heavier patient schedule, but “I have to do what’s right for my staff. I want them to feel like they are taken care of,” she says.
While this was an easy decision for Dr. Tabiza, she recognizes that everyone’s comfort level is a little different. But noting that even Walmart closed 60 of its stores for deep cleaning and disinfection helped her determine that this interruption in business now might be better for her business in the long term.