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'It doesn't make any sense': Quebec just relaxed its COVID-19 rules for dentists, alarming some
MONTREAL -- Quebec relaxed its COVID-19 rules for dentists on Friday, but some dentists say the move causes more stress than relief and that it’s coming too soon.
“It doesn’t make any sense with regard to the patients that I’m seeing on a daily basis, because I have no idea if they are carriers or non-carriers,” said Dr. Barry Dolman.
Dental offices were only allowed to open four weeks ago with strict protocols: doors and other barriers to seal off operating areas, lots of personal protective gear, even new air filtration systems.
It’s not that dentists liked working under all those layers.
“It’s quite laborious to wear…a visor and use all of this equipment. It's hot and its exhausting to work under these conditions,” says Dolman.
But they agreed with the province that it was necessary. Dentists are constantly exposed to patients’ aerosols that could carry the virus, says Dolman.
“If I use my turbine, if I use a Cavitron to clean with water and aerosol, all of that is coming up right at me all the time,” he explains.
On Friday, Quebec’s public health authorities announced the extra personal protective gear was no longer necessary.
According to a new guide provided by the Quebec Order of Dentists, dentists are still required to maintain frequent handwashing, disinfecting and physical distancing.
But when they’re treating patients without any COVID-19 symptoms, they don’t need to wear gowns, N95 masks or visors.
In a statement, the order said data shows Quebec is “currently in a situation of low community transmission,” so “public health authorities have decided to relax the protection measures implemented on June 1st.”
The new, less stringent directives only apply to asymptomatic patients and not to “confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19,” said the statement.
Dolman said it seems a little soon to make such a confident pronouncement that community transmission is low.
“With the deconfinement just announced last week—open bars, open restaurants, open terrasses—it's obvious that there's more potential for COVID transmission this week and in the coming weeks than last week,” he said.
At the federal level, health authorities also took a more cautious view Monday, saying they consider Montreal to still be one of Canada’s “hot spots” for community transmission.
“Currently hot spots linger, with persistent community transmission in and around Toronto and Montreal,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer.
Dr. Horacio Arruda, her provincial counterpart, also reminded Quebecers that people with no symptoms can still spread the virus.
Dolman is a past president of the Quebec Order of Dentists, and he says he’ll follow his own rules this time—he’ll wear the full set of personal protective equipment when treating all his patients, and will continue to do so until there’s a reliable, rapid test for the virus, or a vaccine.