Protecting Veterans returning for in-person care

Physical distancing and face coverings key safety measures


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More than 100 VA health facilities across the U.S. have started to offer in-person care again for many non-urgent needs and appointments. At the same time, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many parts of the country.

As more Veterans begin to return for in-person care, safety is our top priority. That’s why we continue to monitor and adjust our in-person services, as needed, for each facility. It’s also why it’s more important than ever for everyone to follow the safety measures we’ve put in place. These include practicing physical distancing and wearing face coverings.

Pictured above with unique photo-only badges is the inpatient physical therapy team at VA’s North Las Vegas Medical Center. Left to right are Ismael Magoto, Courtney Haia and Kaitlyn Burns.

Physical distancing and face coverings are our best safety measures

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads from person to person through the air. When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, droplets from their mouth or nose can travel through the air and into the mouths, noses or lungs of people nearby. Even people who are infected but show no symptoms of COVID-19 can likely still spread the virus.

Because of this, physical distancing and cloth face coverings are two of the best ways we can protect ourselves and others.

Physical distancing

We’ve made changes to our spaces and processes to help Veterans, caregivers and employees stay at least six feet (about two arms’ lengths) apart in our facilities, when possible. The farther apart you are from someone who’s infected, the less likely you are to have contact with their droplets that can carry the virus.

Changes include using remote check-in options by text or phone and creating more space in waiting rooms.

Face coverings

We now require everyone who enters a VA facility to wear a cloth face covering. This helps to keep the virus from spreading when a person coughs, sneezes or talks. Read more about our face covering policy.

We encourage you to follow these tips for wearing a face covering:

  • Make sure your face covering fits snugly over your mouth and nose. You should be able to breathe without restriction.
  • When you take your face covering off, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. And don’t touch the outside of the face covering.
  • As soon as you remove your face covering, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
  • Wash or replace your face covering each day.

Focusing on your safety and comfort while providing the highest quality care

VA employees across the country are wearing their face coverings and other protective attire to help protect Veterans, caregivers and coworkers. And they’re coming up with creative ways to help Veterans feel comfortable in this new reality.

For example, employees at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center found it harder to make a connection with some Veterans with their faces covered. To help, the team decided to get photo badges. This gives Veterans a face to put with the name of the caregiver behind the face covering.

“It’s hard to see a smile behind the mask and shield, but at least this way they can identify with us on a more personal level,” explained Courtney Hala. Hala is a supervisory physical therapist at the medical center.

We stand firm in our belief that all Veterans have the right to expect safe care when they come to VA. To learn more about our efforts to provide safe care, go to our VA.gov coronavirus FAQs.

To learn more about how to protect yourself and others, go to the CDC website.


Marine Corps Veteran Rick Fox is the field content lead for VA’s COVID-19 Joint Communications Task Force.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. CW Ridky    

    Where are the VAMCs that are not requiring a mask.
    That’s where I want to go
    Not only are masks useless in preventing virus transmission ( like trying to keep flies out of your house by putting up a chain link fence) but ( research shows that) masks are harmful to your health. They inhibit fresh air intake, they cause rebreathing of carbon dioxide, they increase stress hormones
    ( cortisol) which makes you more susceptible to illness.
    Masks were never intended to be worn by all the people all the time.
    And , if that’s not enough of a problem, how about PTSD/anxiety patients who cannot wear a mask or risk panic attacks.
    Medical people should use science, not politics in determining policy. This is more true for veterans hospitals where I expect more sensitivity for PTSD patients.

    1. Max Eves    

      Right on, Chief! This is stupidity, mockery of what’s supposed to be Science-driven. Nothing but politics, power and control!!! What’s happening to America??? I’ve felt that the freedom and liberty we have so dearly defended is going moot! Shame on those radical progressives!

  2. Billy J. Gilliam    

    I am an 84 year old veteran with 26 years of service. I notice reading this that veterans are like much of the general population. That is they will defend their beliefs with great vigor and gusto even if these beliefs are based on lies or ignorance. Truth is not important, facts are not important, Only what they believe is important and this makes them feel superior to those who have different beliefs. Jesus said “The truth shall set you free”. But who wants the truth when a lie will bolster your beliefs? One of the founding fathers of this nation, Benjamin Franklin said “Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see.”. Sadly almost all of every race, creed and religion consider themselves superior to others. What I am trying to say is get the facts don’t let ignorance and lies rule you. That is what is most important in making us and our nation strong.

  3. Max Eves    

    This is getting ridiculous!!! The evidence have come to show the low mortality rate of this Chinese coronavirus. And given the improved therapeutics already established, backed up with multiple clinical evidence, WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL NOW? The virus is already all around us. The very reason why with more expansive testing, cases of positivity is in upward trend! And the much controversy surrounding the efficacy of face masks and that physical distancing are not even convincing enough based on new-found Science about it’s spread! Everybody is going to get that nasty Wuhan virus one way or another. The only question for people is that; are they of strong immune system enough to fight this off and develop immunity. The very reason why there has been no reemergence of most of the Pandemics in history would be attributable to what is referred to as HERD IMMUNITY!! So I’d rather be exposed and be immuned to this Chinese virus, more so should everyone else. And if your get down ill with it, we’ll, established Therapeutics now in the medical community would be promising enough to not let you SO BOGGED DOWN with fear of death from it! The known mortality rate now is less than .1 percent, even weaker than the seasonal Flu!! So please STOP ALL THESE NONSENSE.

  4. Joe Maurice Resendez    

    I am a chemo patient at AUDIE L MURPHY MEMORIAL VAMC an I could not be more pleased with every one there, These people all really care for all Vets. They are more that professional and have many things that are above and beyond of the minimum, Starting with the parking, they have shuttles that go around and pick up anyone and wait for the when they are slow to get out of their vehicles. the take you to the door and when you walk in you get your temperature checked and a survey to make sure you don’t have the virus. if you don’t have a make, they will give you one. Then if you need help to get where you are going, a transporter will take you in a wheelchair. Then when you finish, They will get another wheelchair to take you again. they will take you to the tram and sometimes to your car if it is close to one of two exits where the trams come.
    I am luck to have such a great VA facility. I wish all VA facilities would be like this and all Vets could be taken care of.

  5. Diane Stensland-Bickers    

    So far the Montana VA system has been working pretty good for my husband. It’s not seamless or foolproof but neither is my non-VA healthcare during this time. We were able to do some telephone appointments during the time when we were shutdown, and doc/nurse were available through secure messaging as well. Once phased re-opening started we were able to get in to P/T as long as we followed procedures. Scheduled for blood work next week and going to the clinic for a tele health appt with a provider in a different city.

  6. Jeremy    

    When can we get the care we need? I have extreme pain, but the VA wont operate or use the mission act because of the COVID. This is BS! You cannot stop care for YOUR veterans for 4 months it has already been and keep pushing dates back by 90 days at a time. The VAs plan to deal with COVID? wait it out…. The VA is boasting about opening up less than 10% of its facilities… Le sigh. Can we get real help anytime soon? The local hospitals have opened up, doing in-person appointments. But the VA? NOPE. THE VA DOESNT CARE ABOUT ITS responsibilities! Why hasn’t somebody started suing them yet!????

  7. Russ    

    Which hospitals are opening back up? The email I received keying me to this article and the article itself did not say.

  8. Eva T Allen    

    I think this is great especially since my husband is at the Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina. So this means that I can go down and be with husband,
    Vernon H Allen Jr as of tomorrow I hope. Please let me know ASAP. I am my husband’s caregiver too.
    Thank you
    Eva T Allen

  9. DANIAL BOURA    

    Wearing of face mask I for example I have COPD I can hardly breathe through the regular ones an now you want me to use a cloth one I don’t think so plus I have to do lab work before m y face to face va needs to rethink this an figure out a better way because it’s not going to happen as far as I’m concerned

    1. Nelson Foster Burch    

      I went to Clarksburg WV VA hospital today and used only a face shield. Appointment was for oxygen yearly renewal. No qualms were raised of my choice of face covering. I am able to breathe freely with the shields. Maybe this will help.

  10. Mary K Paylor    

    I am a patient in Augusta, GA at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and personally have no complaints of this facility. Throught the quarantine the clinics were closed and they still made appointments available to patients who needed constant scheduled care and procedures all while maintaining required masks, distancing and protective gear from head, hands to feet. They maintained a 24 hour 1 entrance check point also for required sanitizing, temperature taking, symptom questions and a visual while doing checks. Realizing that these VA patients have already been exposed to every thing over time they were still professional even with reduced staff.

  11. Oscar A.R. Arellano Sr    

    Well I guess our VA leaders aren’t reading any of the comments since I don’t see any replies at all. It’s not our Veterans come first in care they are the last. I’m hitting 74years and it has not changes at all and with Choice there is too much red tape. I’m sure that all of these comments are not even shown to President Trump so, i guess I’ll drop him a line on the wonderful support we (Veterans) are getting taken care of. This is my second comment.

  12. Michael Joseph Slenski    

    I am having no problems getting appointments at my St Clairsville, Ohio VA Clinic. They check my temperature before I go in and I fill out a questiionaire. Chairs are six feet apart and masks are worn by staff. It can’t be better than that. My Pittsburgh VA Healthcare Hospital is open and I have in person appointments scheduled. I have used tele appointments as well. I am not sure why other veterans are having problems getting appointments and being treated safely. Thanks to all the VA staff members

  13. John Lunkwicz    

    Just getting into the Temple VA is a mess. If you are disabled, they make you park miles away, with no assistance to get in. All staffed up, but no one could be available to assist. The patient must walk all the way around the building … only the emergency room doors are open. Then you can go give blood etc on the other side of the hospital. Not very compliant with the ADA.

    The telehealth, is a joke. Really, they cannot help you…they cannot see you physically, not all of us have video capability.

    Point is – VA has 1/4 of the patient load, but the same amount of employees, same amount of $$$ tax dollar allocation. There isn’t a soul around, and if you make any calls to phones – it states the line is not monitored due to covid. If you ask for care you are treated, or should I say mis-treated.

    My hospital stay – I was basically on my own, food brought to me, and no healing plan. I left with bed sores, inability to walk on my left foot, the only rehab was being taught how to get into a car, and get out. They brought me to the front steps in the rain, and were rid of me.

    No rehab, no after care, not even a phone call to see if the stitches had gotten infected, if I had a fever. Nothing. No calls. So I started calling asking about rehab to regain the ability to walk on my foot, to get help in the house, to get a walker I could use. I even wrote a letter to Sen. Cruz office.

    IT’S BEEN A DISMAL EVENT…my recommendation is close…or leave it open for the civilians you want to help over veterans. Primary care is not your core competency, so just close the doors, and let veterans go to get help, and pay the bills. Become an insurance agency, as you certainly do not deliver quality compassionate healthcare.

  14. Rob Richey    

    How long is the VA going to use COVID as yet ANOTHER excuse not to provide care??? There has to be 60 dentist between my home and the VA that are open and 0 COVID issues.

  15. Elwin H White    

    I recently went to the Long Beach, Ca VA to get a brain MRI. as I got on the elevator, a VA employee got on as the doors were closing WITH NO MASK, NO 6 FOOT DISTANCING, NO PRECAUTIONS AT ALL. I am severely disabled and am in a wheelchair. There was no way for me to get off before the doors closed. When I got off on the 1st floor, 3 employees (in scrubs) came walking into the hospital with NO MASKS ON and just talking, laughing and risking the lives of all of us! As I went through the hospital, EVERYWHERE in the facility were employees with no masks, no protective gear, NOTHING. Talking and walking right next to patients. This VA needs to be shut down immediately. No wonder their COVID cases are skyrocketing!!! Stay away from the Long Beach, Ca VA!!

  16. Lawrence Van Heusen    

    By sending these messages out nationwide, there is confusion about how it applies locally, Apparently some facilities are more open than others. Why can’t the local facilities send out messages? I can’t even tell from this whether my facility is open to face-to-face appointments. If I called and asked, I would still be lacking information about how these rules apply there.

  17. David J. Hill    

    It would be nice if the Pittsburgh VA hospital would open back up. Every appointment I had scheduled has been cancelled with no reschedule dates. I was told if I am that bad to go to the emergency room at the hospital. If the clinics aren’t open, then what good is it for me to go to the emergency room at the VA hospital. All of the other area hospital and clinics are seeing patients and doing tests, however the VA has yet to open back up. I call every week. Last week I was told to quit calling, they would call me when the clinics open back up. I am in need of care.

  18. Carl Degen    

    As a veteran and been going to Michael E Debake Houston. This is a joke. It gave more power yi cheat us from care and pocket money. The staff commonly remove masks. Talk with nose and mouth exposed 2 ft from co workers. Yesterday I went for a injection and out side the female worker in full PPE. Face mask, shield, gloves, scrubs, hair net gave me the song and dance fake safety questions informed me I needed a sticker on my shirt. Ok I said. She pulls a sticker sheet out. Pulls her mask down, licks her thumb then uses that to peel off the sticker. WTF lady

  19. Dr C N Turrell PhD    

    I am a person that can not wear a face mask of any kind, because at one time I had one side of my nose damaged enough that when the nose is covered I can not breath well, and start to pass out, so in my area this makes it impossible to have an appointment, because we do not have phone appointments here.
    So this means I guess I am not going to see a medical professional until this face mask things is removed.
    Since I am on the home tele health program at least they can see my daily results for my diabetic condition.

  20. Richard P Casini    

    I went into the VA last week. I was surprised to see about 30% of the patients and staff not.wearing any masks at all. Very disappointing.

  21. JKNCal    

    I was at my VA Clinic yesterday and they are not checking temperatures nor explaining to us to be sure to cover our nose and mouth with our mask. I asked why and they gave round-a-bout answers. They only ask the COVID-19 questions. Really concerned me and makes me wonder how safe I was. Half of the Vets around me were not covering their nose and no one says anything! Everyone, if you don’t wear the mask properly it’s useless. I have to go back next week and if I experience the same I’ll be requesting virtual visits until there is a vaccine.

  22. JAMES W CASS    

    Is it to the point now in VA thinking that EVERYONE is infected? No mention here of temp checks, etc before entering a facility.

  23. Frank Mc Carley    

    I appreciate the cautions the VA is taking to ensure the health of our veterans. There is a 99.5% recovery rate of the people who contract the COVID19. In the Corpus Christi facility, I am amazed at how they can have a telephonic consult; capturing the patients’ blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate. It further amazes me how the Surgeon General of the United States; one of the worlds leading experts in the medical field, says that there is little scientific evidence supporting the mandatory use of facial coverings for non-medical people, unless you are sick don’t need one was his advice. Yet, the VA forces everybody to wear a mask. Do you people have a mental problem in which you are totally afraid of germs? Are your facilities not equipped with the latest space technology which sanitizes the air and surfaces in the facility? Like I told the person who called me for my annual checkup with the doctor (not); call me next year if this fiasco is over.

  24. Charles Brimeyer    

    Are the face badges the va has printed on both sides? The badges are more time as not turned to the back that is blank.

    1. Jeff rheaume    

      I like to gamble now and then, but i’d hate to be the one in two hundred who gets it and dies. So I think it’s better to be safe than sorry….

  25. Mike wyman    

    A huge thank you to every health care worker for your kindness and caring! Without you this pandemic would be soooo much worse.

    Stay safe

  26. Ty k. Krasnoff    

    I am a hypnotist and veteran. .I have been working with non- verbal communication variables for years. By covering our faces, we also hide the micro expressions that convey trust between people. As a society change this will and has been responsible for increased stress levels and increased dis & mistrust. This will escalate as long as the majority of the face remains covered, even by a clear barrier.
    Body language is responsible for far more communication than audible communication on a day to day basis, according to research.

  27. Leslie Quintela Flores    

    I feel it is still too early for a lot of us disabled veterans due to our susceptibility due to our health problems and ages. I will refuse any face to face unless absolutely necessary like blood work. Thanks and keep up the good work. God bless

    1. Richard P Casini    

      If you think its hard to communicate with a mask on ,then you you will be surprised to find how hard it is to communicate with the dead person who you spread your germs to because you didn’t wear one.

  28. Leslie Quintela Flores    

    I feel it is still too early for a lot of us disabled veterans due to our susceptibility due to our health problems and ages. I will refuse any face to face unless absolutely necessary like blood work. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  29. Mark Filipak    

    We are still not getting correct information. I’m a scientist. From news on NPR, I hear that several hundred scientists have petitioned the CDC to warn that dry viruses (aerosol) will persist in closed spaces for several hours. I knew that from the git-go because the corona virus is about 1/200th the size of smoke particles. The CBOCs need to move examinations outdoors or install UV air purifiers. Until then, I’m staying away and have recently cancelled my biannual examination.

  30. John J. Reder    

    I do not have a car and had to take a bus to my VA appointment. I had to wait outside in the open, was not allowed to use the rest room and while waiting for the bus to get home they came out and told me I could not “hang around”

  31. Stuart Lee Aspel    

    I am currently in the stage of trying to qualify to get on the liver transplant list. The shut down stopped the ability to have the test done that I have to pass for my case to be presented to the review board. Is there any plans in place to expedite the process for other veterans and myself in this situation?

  32. ALICE JEAN MAIMBOURG    

    I neglected to mention that once I got called into the eye dr appt, I would switch to a cloth mask for the examination. It is just too long for me to wear a cloth mask all the time in the waiting room and then in the examination room. Thank you.

  33. Whitney Robinson    

    While the doctors and nurses show up at the local facility and are available, the people on the phones are hiding away because of Covid which makes no sense. The doctors are there but no one working at the community center to get your appointment. I have an urgent need to see a doctor for two new degenerations in my back But no one is working at the phone center.

  34. ALICE JEAN MAIMBOURG    

    I have COPD and it is very difficult for me to wear a cloth face covering for any amount of time. Is it all right for me to wear my face shield to the VA for my appointments? My daughter also has a lung condition and she wears a face shield, too. She brings me to my appts since I can’t drive with my macular degeneration. Please advise.

    Thank you!!!

  35. John F. Marks    

    When will the Lewiston ID CBOC reopen for normal appointments? I am months overdue for a appointment with my care provider and a phone session will not suffice; I need labs before he can properly evaluate my status.
    Lewiston area hospitals, doctor’s and dentist’s offices are all open and the city and surrounding area are operating normally.
    With reasonable caution there should be no problem reopening. Risk is minimal here. JM

  36. Joe Louis    

    This article is extremely misleading. A serious of callous and outright lies. I was at my local VA hospital in Long Beach California two days ago for a check up. I was told that there are no in-person visits until further notice, and that the soonest I would be able to see a doctor would be early October.

    The VA is an utter waste of tax payers money. A large amount of independent media and scholarly investigations have established that to be the case.

    The VA not only completely fails to fulfill the purpose for which it was established, it openly, wilfully, and knowingly ignores veterans seeking services that the VA is charged with providing.

    Employees are often rude and abusive, both over the phone and in person.

    The VA is just another one of those predatory entities that exists solely off the suffering and pain of those poor Americans who made the sacrifice to voluntarily serve their country.

    Shame on the VA and all those other organizations and state government entities that continue to feed off the blood of poor helpless veterans.

  37. Dennis Peterson    

    What we want to know most and has been totally neglected is which VA facilities of more than a 100 are the lucky ones to finally allow a vet to see a doctor?
    The clinic that is supposed to serve me, the largest outpatient clinic in the United States, seems permanently shut. Have been waiting over a year now for a neurological examination.
    We have awful political players that add to any backlog should the VA ever decide to include this formerly high volume clinic.
    Has this situation not graduated to being resolved by POTUS status?

  38. Gardiner L. Schneider    

    Thank you. This is good information without a lot of fluff that turns vets, such as me, away. You might have a hint or two for those of us who wear hearning aids as we have to be careful how we remove the ear or head band so that we do not lose a hearing aid. Cannot really do that without touching your ears. Fair Winds, Garry

  39. joseph hacken    

    Bs if you believe this story I have swamp land at a good price . Veterans are forgotten 22 veterans commit suicide each day why.

  40. Alex ita    

    I need a prostate biopsy and meet VA requirements for that procedure. Seattle VA informs me they cannot schedule due to Covid and cannot predict when they can resume “normal” operations. They also have a 3 month case backlog when they reopen. I’m fortunate in having insurance and found that Multicare, Franciscan and other local HMOs are doing biopsies and I’m forced to explore those options. I am willing to be tested, and if negative I don’t see any Covid exposure risk to VA staff or other veterans. Wish VA would use common sense in decision making.

  41. Robert TROBIANO    

    You are implementing a communist policy. Requiring veterans to wear a mask when you staff at VA Muskogee aren’t. I was refused SERVICE for not wearing a mask. Someone needs to be fired.

  42. Dr. Jerry McGowin, US Army Chaplain, retired    

    so far the VA makes me feel less safe and less important, as many appointments and monthly procedures have been canceled . While . in the past i had monthly maintenance appointments.. While some of my procedures have been canceled, i do not consider them to be elective as they negatively effect my well being and my ability to manage my pain levels on a day to day basis. .

  43. Oscar A.R. Arellano Sr    

    Where can I go to get in person care since all my appointment have been cancelled here at the El Paso VA and that’s a bunch of bull. Why is it that they will see you out side the VA facilities but the VA will not. I think that the Corona is all an excess to control our lives. I’m sorry but I for one am tired of elected officials controlling our lives or is it that they want us old people dead.

  44. Luke Imperato    

    This is concerning: I had my yearly physical that had to be postponed, and finally condensed to a phone call. How one can complete a physical exam over the phone is beyond me. I had the bloodwork portion of the exam scheduled a month after my phone call. Last week I was just notified that even that appointment is cancelled and changed to a phone visit. What about the bloodwork? In the meantime, I can schedule a chiropractic appointment, dental cleaning, xrays, eyes exams, hair cuts and a host of other services through the private sector.

    Please, lets stop this nonsense and start using some common sense! Open up the VA services quickly! It makes no medical or scientific sense what you are doing!

  45. Chris Kearns    

    Thank you, you three and everyone else there!

  46. Bradley lail    

    The VA claims that it is te-opening facilities to provide veterans face to face C&P exams. The website claims that these exams are available in 34,124 zip codes. My zip code is one of them, but yet I have been informed that the VA is not resuming face to face exams for IDES claims. Why has the VA not addressed transitioning service members need to plan their life and provide much needed care and re-assurance? There needs to be a plan for service members who need to transition from service.

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