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Have elective surgeries resumed? What are the required safety protocols or social distancing policies?

Last Updated: 06/16/2021

Elective surgeries are permitted to resume in New Jersey.

Guidance for Hospitals and Ambulatory Surgery Centers

The Department of Health has issued guidance for hospitals and for ambulatory surgery centers that conduct surgeries.

Facilities conducting elective services and invasive procedures are required to take additional steps to protect health care workers and patients including:

  • Institute screening of all healthcare personnel for symptoms of COVID-19 and have policies in place for removal of symptomatic employees from the workplace, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
  • Enforce physical distancing and use of well-fitting face masks requirements in work areas and common areas following CDC and NJDOH guidelines, whenever practicable.
  • Require use of well-fitting face masks for all healthcare personnel and patients regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, except patients receiving services that prevent the use of a mask or are unable to wear a mask in accordance with CDC guidance.
  • Continue to maintain an established plan for cleaning and disinfecting the facility, including equipment and high touch surfaces prior to use and in between patients.
  • Scheduling must be coordinated to promote physical distancing.
  • Minimize time in waiting area.
  • Patients are exempt from pre-procedural COVID-19 testing and self-quarantine if the patient: 1) provides proof of full COVID-19 vaccination and is currently asymptomatic; or 2) has tested positive within the last 90 days and completed the appropriate isolation and is currently asymptomatic. Facilities may elect to use COVID-19 testing of these individuals as results might continue to be useful in some situations.
  • For patients who do not meet the testing requirement above, the facility must ensure that each patient has been tested (specimen collected and negative result received) within a six-day maximum before a scheduled procedure.
  • Visitors with COVID-19 symptoms are not allowed in an ambulatory surgical center. Visitors must be screened. All visitors must adhere to physical distancing and masking requirements.

In addition, ambulatory surgical centers should not perform procedures on COVID-19 positive patients, unless excepted in Executive Order 109 as an urgent case and nothing in this directive shall be construed to limit access to the full range of family planning services and procedures, including terminations of pregnancies, whether in a hospital, ambulatory surgery center, physician office, or other location.

For full details, refer to the Department of Health's requirements for hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers to resume elective surgeries.

Guidance for Dentists, Optometrists, and other Health Care Offices

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has released guidance for health care professional offices, private practices, clinics, urgent care centers, community medical centers to resume elective surgeries.

Requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Utilizing telemedicine to the greatest extent possible to treat, order tests and triage patients.
  • Calling all patients seeking in-person appointments (or the patient's parent or guardian) to: (1) assess whether an in-person visit is necessary; (2) determine the patient's current health status; (3) determine whether the patient has had known exposure to COVID-19, or has compatible symptoms, or has tested positive; (4) determine the length of time since the onset of symptoms or from the positive test results; and (5) advise the patient during scheduling of in-person appointments of the face-covering requirement below.
  • Prioritizing services that, if deferred, are most likely to result in patient harm and would most benefit at-risk patients, or were previously cancelled and/or postponed,gradually resuming a full scope of services when it is possible and safe to do so.
  • Require patients and companions coming to the office for an in-person visit to wear a face covering.
  • Screening all patients upon arrival, regardless of symptoms, by means of a no-contact temperature check or thermometers with disposable covers, and if a patient or companion has a fever over 100.0 degrees: (1) isolate the patient in a separate location or single-patient room immediately upon entry into the office and close the door; or (2) defer care, if appropriate; or (3) as to a companion, advise that the companion may not enter and should wait for the patient outside of the premises and attempt to utilize telemedicine to include a patient's companion.
  • Spacing appointments to minimize patient-to-patient contact and the number of people in the office at any given time. If feasible and consistent with social distancing, patients should remain in their cars or outside until they are ready to be seen, or wait in separate rooms to minimize contact with other patients.
  • Scheduling patients with known exposure or exhibiting COVID-19 compatible symptoms for the end of the day or in a dedicated room.
  • Install physical barriers and minimize patient contact with staff and other patients in the reception area during triage, check-in and check-out, or arrange intake and waiting areas to maintain six feet or more of distance between individuals wherever possible.
  • Screen all staff upon arrival each day, by means of a no-contact temperature check or a thermometer with a disposable cover, record the result and advise staff to go home if their temperature is over 100.0 degrees.
  • Direct all administrative staff to wear, at a minimum, a cloth face covering within the office, except where doing so would inhibit the individual's health.
  • Require clinical staff to wear PPE, and provide clinical staff with the requisite PPE at no cost to them, consistent with the level of risk.

For full guidance, refer to Administrative Order No. 2021-11.

Source: Executive Order No. 109; Executive Order No. 145; Administrative Order No. 2021-11