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.
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.
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.