Eye care offices in Hawaii plan to slowly re-open

Many dentists and optometrists limited their appointments to emergencies under recommendation by the CDC, but as more safety guidelines come-out, some practices will begin to see more patients.

In mid-March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested to suspend routine medical visits to preserve personal protective equipment in preparedness for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients.

Optometrist Dr. Linda Arakaki said her practice began to meet patients virtually, but on May 1, patients could return with new safety measures after the CDC lifted its request.

Arakaki said, “What they can expect to see is enhanced sanitization protocols, definitely come in wearing a face covering is going to be essential.”

She said patients should also expect fewer appointments to space out the number of people inside the office, and patients should limit who they bring along.

... Coming in wearing a face covering is going to be essential.

These best practices created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are shared with offices around the county by professional associations such as the Hawaii Optometric Association.

While Dr. Kenji Sakai, a dentist at Waikiki Health said they will slowly begin to expand their appointments once they have more PPE inventory.

“We are just going to take it small steps at a time, probably the next few weeks we’ll still be doing mostly emergency procedures, that don’t cause a lot of sprays we call aerosol, that’s what we are worried about,” Sakai said. “Once we have the PPE set and we have a ready supply of that, then we will probably begin seeing more but really that’s the bottleneck for now, it is PPE.”

Dentists like Dr. Sakai are following CDC guidelines and best practices by the American Dental Association.

Each dental and eye care office will begin to expand its appointments depending on its readiness, patients should call ahead for details on appointment dates and new safety procedures.