Blood samples were collected in October 2015 from 218 people in Jinning county China. It is known that the villages here surrounding the caves have coronavirus-carrying SARS-related bats. These blood samples showed that almost 3% of the people carried antibodies against this SARS-like coronavirus. Also, none of these people were exhibiting clinical symptoms or had been in contact with any bats. It was the first recording of the coronavirus being transmitted from bats to humans.
The current impact of the virus
COVID-19 appeared suddenly. It might be what is referred to by economists as a black swan – an inherently unforeseeable and rare event with very serious consequences. Quite often a pandemic will result in US and global recessions. During the first part of 2020 that is what is occurring. The economy was vulnerable and fragile already to anything that didn’t stick closely to the script prior to the outbreak. However, COVID-19 is well off-script. This virus is impacting all aspects of global business. First, the Dow Jones shut down, then it dropped 30% from the historic high that it had achieved the prior month. This event is effecting nearly every sector.
Before I look at the effects that COVID-19 is having on the dental profession, first for comparison sake I will look at how other sectors are being affected in terms of consumer behaviour and business.
The current state of dentistry and its future
Today, private dentists in Fleet are faced with a challenge they were not prepared for. No management training program or dental school should have anticipated a situation like this, with prolonged periods of interruption to business.
Dental practices are using all possible methods (practice websites, social media, voice mail media, mailers) to inform patients about their office closures for regular dentistry. There have been screening protocols developed such as the one from the American Association of endodontists that should continue to be used even after the lifting of restrictions.
One of the worst impacts that result from the closure of practices is on the salaries of staff. Many staff members do no have a lot of wiggle room in their finances. Unemployment insurance only partially meet their needs, and since most owners of practices are financially compromised due to all of the uncertainty, everyone is closely watching the steps that the federal government takes over the next couple of weeks.
Hiring hygienists and associates
Among dental graduates, there is a great deal of confusion about hiring due to the crisis. Dental practice vacancies mainly serve two purposes. One is to expand a corporate office and the other is to replace an associate who is leaving. When it comes to replacing associates, dentists are likely to wait to see how their patients respond. If they recover quickly they will most likely be an urgency to hire staff to catch up. For corporate job, things might be a bit trickier. Most likely corporations and practice owners will respond based on how the banks and other financiers adjust to this new reality. Some might expand their practices will while others might wait. Initially, the situation might be harder on dental hygienists. However, that will soon plateau. I think that any effect of this kind will only last for this current hiring cycle and might not extend past a couple of months.
Dental supply companies
Major suppliers in China have produced most of the personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks, goggles, gowns, and gloves, along with wound care, surgical, diagnostic, and cleaning products. Our dependence on China will most likely decrease. For North American manufacturers, this is good news.
This virus will most likely remain with us. There will continue to be changes in behaviour, including social distancing, increased interest in online classes, higher online food and sales orders, increased utilisation of pneumococcal vaccines, reduced smoking, less travel, and more.