UCLA dental school failed to implement COVID-19 safety practices, staff and residents say

The University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry failed to implement several COVID-19 safety practices, several residents and faculty members told the Daily Bruin.

More than a dozen dental faculty members and residents claim the school's response to the pandemic was inadequate and described communication issues as clinics prepared to reopen in July. Most spoke under the condition of anonymity, citing a fear of retaliation, and are referred to as faculty member A and residents B, C, D, E and F.

For weeks, the dental school didn't provide N95 respirators for all procedures, and when they did, the masks were expired, according to the Daily Bruin. When the school replaced the old respirators with new ones, leadership attempted to bypass mandatory fit tests, staff and students claim. Faculty and residents voiced concern, according to the Daily Bruin, and the school began fit tests for the new respirators, according to a June 15 email written by Associate Dean Paulo Camargo, DDS.

On June 10, the school updated protocol to only require N95 respirators during procedures that generate "moderate to heavy" aerosol amounts, following the California Dental Association's recommendations. However, the CDC recommends that all providers use N95 respirators when within 6 feet of unmasked patients. At least three faculty and residents said they purchased their own respirators to use both at the school and in private practice.

"I feel like they just want to do the minimum required," resident C told the Daily Bruin. "I honestly don't know why."

The school has held several meetings to address safety concerns, though some faculty and residents claim leadership failed to act and even threatened to punish some individuals for speaking out.

"The health and safety of our entire dentistry community has been, and continues to be, our number one priority at all times," Brianna Aldrich, director of communications for the School of Dentistry, said in an emailed statement to the Daily Bruin.

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