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Patient Safety

HSS has always maintained the highest standards in infection control. The strict procedures implemented at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have been and continue to be followed. If you have questions about an upcoming surgery, call your surgeon’s office directly. If you are scheduled to have or are considering getting elective surgery at HSS but have concerns, read Is It Safe to Have Elective Orthopedic Surgery During the Pandemic? and learn more about HSS safety protocols below.

HSS is a specialized musculoskeletal hospital and does not treat COVID-19

As the world’s largest academic medical center specialized in musculoskeletal health, HSS does not treat the COVID-19 virus. Patients who receive emergency orthopedic care at HSS and have the virus are treated in isolation, following a conservative approach to safety. All HSS staff members, including doctors and nurses, are vaccinated and required to wear masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). They are also required to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and complete a COVID screening survey before they arrive for work. Those who show any signs of illness are advised to not come into work.

Safety is our first priority

The safety of everyone who comes to HSS is our first priority. Our rigorous infection control protocols have been proactively expanded to minimize risk of exposure to the coronavirus, including:

  • All HSS staff members have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • We screen all patients and visitors.
  • We pre-test all patients scheduled for surgery for COVID-19, and reschedule those with non-emergent procedures who test positive.
  • We require that all staff are vaccinated, wear masks and appropriate PPE at all HSS facilities, and that all patients, visitors and staff wear masks and perform hand hygiene while at HSS facilities.
  • We encourage social distancing at all HSS locations wherever possible.
  • We have thorough disinfection protocols to help ensure a safe and clean environment.
  • While we will allow one visitor per adult patient to an outpatient appointment. We continue to encourage that companions join virtually, when possible, for the safety of our staff, patients, and visitors.

Visitor policy and information

To learn more about visiting a patient or accompanying one to an appointment at HSS, please see our Visitor Policy and Information.

COVID-19 Vaccination and Surgery

If you’re preparing for an upcoming surgery, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is helpful for your surgery and recovery. Watch the following video for 5 things to know about COVID-19 vaccines and orthopedic surgery.

COVID-19 Vaccines and Your Surgery

What to Expect During Your Visit to HSS

Please see below for videos that explain our new protocols, as well as answers to common questions on how we are keeping you safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Preparing for Your Visit to HSS

What to Expect at Your Appointment at HSS

What to Expect Before Your Surgery at HSS


Questions about your visit?

If you have nonmedical questions related to visiting HSS, communication with family and friends on the day of surgery or after, or anything else not addressed below, please call our patient and family resource line at 212.774.7547.

Safety Precautions at HSS: FAQs


How do COVID-19 travel advisories affect my visit to HSS?

HSS is in constant communication with local and federal agencies to ensure our screening process includes the latest travel advisories.

International Travel

Patients and visitors who have traveled internationally in the last 10 days require testing and/or quarantine upon arrival to the US.

  • Fully vaccinated (2+ weeks ago w/ Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, Covaxin, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Sinopharm, and Sinovac only) and/or COVID(+) in the last 90 days: Patient/visitor must provide proof of COVID vaccine and/or initial COVID(+) lab result. Patient/visitor to obtain a COVID PCR or antigen test within 24 hours before travel to US. Patient/visitor to obtain a second COVID PCR test on days 3 – 5 upon arrival to US as per NYS guidelines. However, patient/visitor is permitted at HSS prior to the second test. Patient/visitor to also provide the 2nd COVID(-) PCR results if requested by HSS.
    • Patients requiring COVID testing to be seen at HSS (surgical, PFT, MRI w/ sedation): Second COVID test can be offered at HSS and count as pre-op test if performed within 5 days of surgery.
    • Patients not requiring COVID testing to be seen at HSS (office visits): Second COVID test to be obtained externally (not at HSS).   
  • Not fully vaccinated (2+ weeks ago w/ Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, Covaxin, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Sinopharm, and Sinovac only) and not COVID (+) in the last 90 days: Patient/visitor to obtain a COVID PCR or antigen test within 24 hours before travel to US. Patient/visitor to quarantine for 7 days upon arrival and obtain a second COVID PCR test on days 3 – 5. Second COVID test to be obtained externally (not at HSS). Upon receipt of second negative result, patient/visitor may exit quarantine and be seen at HSS after day 7.

As part of the screening process to ensure everyone’s safety, we will be asking all patients and visitors in all HSS locations (NY, NJ, CT and FL) about their travel history.

How is HSS screening patients before their appointments?

We have multiple safety protocols in place and are doing several rounds of screening before patient appointments.

  • We are limiting the number of entrances to ensure that all patients are screened before they enter our facilities.
  • Before arriving, all patients are screened for COVID-19 symptoms, COVID exposures and travel.

Patients will also receive a text message with a link to a screening survey on the day before their visit or surgery depending on their provider. We ask that you please fill it out ahead of time so that you can get in quickly. 


What can I do to limit the time I spend in the waiting room?

We have taken several steps to limit the time patients spend in waiting rooms. We have also made changes to limit the number of people you will need to interact with as well as the objects you will need to touch.

  • You will be asked to complete your paperwork electronically before you arrive for your appointment. Please make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. You may also receive a phone call to see if you need any help completing this information ahead of your visit.
  • Depending on the location of your appointment, you may receive a text message notifying you when we are ready for you to enter the building.
  • Rather than checking out, you can leave immediately after your visit. Your doctor or their office staff will call you to discuss next steps.

Are doctors, nurses and other staff screened for COVID-19 before starting work?

All staff members, including doctors and nurses, are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They are also required to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Those who show any signs of illness are advised to not come into work.

HSS also offers COVID testing to staff if they have any signs or symptoms of cold or flu-like illness, following possible exposure to COVID, and as possible when requested. 

What kind of personal protective equipment (PPE) will staff be wearing?

All staff will be wearing masks. Some staff may also be wearing eye protection. This is in alignment with all current guidelines from New York State, New York City and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Will you provide me with any protective gear?

We will provide you with a surgical mask when you arrive at HSS if you don’t already have one. We also ask that you use our hand hygiene stations when you arrive and whenever asked to do so by a staff member.

How are you cleaning exam rooms and other spaces?

All clinical areas are continually cleaned to the highest standards. Indeed, our infection control policies set the standard for others to follow. Here is how we are cleaning individual spaces:

Examination and Inpatient Rooms

  • wiping down all tables, surfaces, counters, controls, equipment and monitors with electrostatic EPA-approved disinfection spray technology after every patient visit
  • disposing of all trash, regulated medical waste and paper products in dispensers after every patient visit
  • removing any unnecessary objects or equipment

Waiting Rooms

  • removing or reconfiguring furniture to ensure there is enough space for social distancing wherever possible
  • adding hand hygiene stations throughout
  • regular cleaning with approved disinfection spray

Will you test me for COVID-19 before my surgery?

Yes, all patients will be tested for COVID-19 ahead of surgery and other key procedures (such as pulmonary function testing). This ensures your safety and the safety of our staff.

Presurgical screening may include a blood test to look for COVID-19 antibodies and possibly a chest X-ray. On the day of surgery (or the day before), you will receive a nasopharyngeal swab test (done with a swab in the nose) to test for COVID-19 virus. We will help you arrange this testing.

If we determine you are COVID-positive, elective procedures and related presurgical visits will be rescheduled at least 10 days. You will not be re-tested for COVID for the next 90 days unless you develop new symptoms that could indicate a new COVID infection. In alignment with New York State guidelines, elective surgery patients must have a COVID-negative molecular test prior to surgery. Please note that pursuing repeat testing in the community and having a negative result does not mean your surgery will be performed sooner.

How is social distancing practiced at HSS?

“Social distancing” means keeping at least six feet of space between yourself and others.

At HSS. we have taken the following steps:

  • Adding markings on floors, in elevators and in other areas to show where to stand or move to maintain social distancing wherever possible
  • Removing or moving seats in waiting rooms and patient rooms to allow for social distancing wherever possible
  • Adding plastic screens at check-in desks as a barrier between patients/visitors and HSS staff
  • Requiring face masks for patients, visitors and staff at all times, even when more than six feet from others

Inpatient rooms have also been set up to allow social distancing between patients, and between visitors and patients.

We ask that you please follow these guidelines to keep everyone safe.

Will I still be able to have my postsurgical appointments and physical therapy? Can I do them virtually?

Postoperative care, such as X-rays and other imaging tests and physical therapy, is critical to your recovery. You will be able to come to HSS in person for these appointments.

Also, you can work with your doctor to create a plan that allows you to receive as much care as you want and are able to have virtually. Together, you can determine if your postoperative imaging is essential and, if so, the best location and timing for this to be done.

What happens if I have been exposed to COVID-19 in the community or get tested outside of HSS and am positive?

Please call your HSS provider or the department with whom you have an appointment to notify them of your exposure and/or COVID-positive test.

If you are COVID-positive, elective procedures, outpatient appointments and other elective services will be rescheduled at least four weeks. See "Will you test me for COVID-19 before my surgery?" above for more.

If you were possibly exposed to COVID-19, HSS will gather more information from you about the exposure. We will provide guidance on when your elective surgery and/or visit can be rescheduled after a post-exposure quarantine.

What should I know about the polio vaccine?

Given the recent news in New York State, we are sharing information about the polio vaccination. In short, there is no change to the current vaccine recommendations.

Most adults received the polio vaccine as children. For these fully vaccinated individuals, no further action is needed.

People who are unvaccinated or who have not completed their polio vaccine series previously, including those who are pregnant, should get vaccinated right away. It is never too late to decide to get vaccinated.

Adults who are unvaccinated or uncertain if they have been fully immunized should receive:

  1. The first dose as soon as possible
  2. The second dose 1 to 2 months later,
  3. The third dose 6 to 12 months after the second.

Adults who have had 1 or 2 doses of polio vaccine in the past should get the remaining 1 or 2 doses. It doesn't matter how long it has been since the earlier dose(s). Adults who have previously completed a routine series of polio vaccine (IPV or OPV) and are at increased risk of exposure to poliovirus, including certain healthcare workers and travelers to countries where polio remains endemic, can receive one lifetime booster dose of IPV.

Children should get vaccinated beginning at 2 months of age. All children should receive four doses of the polio vaccine:

  1. The first dose given at 2 months of age,
  2. The second dose given at 4 months of age,
  3. The third dose given at 6 through 18 months of age,
  4. The fourth dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

View more detailed information from the CDC.