California health care employees who tested positive for COVID-19 but do not manifest symptoms will not be required to undergo isolation or bear negative test results to return to work until February 1, ABC7 News reported.
The isolation guidelines were changed by the department of public health amid hospital staffing challenges due to the spike in omicron cases.
UCSF Parnassus Campus Emergency Medicine chief Dr. Maria Raven said: “If we have a nurse that calls out what that means for us is that we can’t open a zone in the emergency department that we would’ve been able to open.”
“We feel like if people don’t have symptoms they should be able to come to work,” she added.
The revision is contrary to the recommendation by the CDC that virus-positive individuals have to observe 5-day isolation regardless of their condition.
But the change is believed to bring about an important impact in the hospital staffing shortage across the state, Dr. Raven said.
“We know that in 2020 before there were even vaccines, the rate of transmission from providers to patients that has been documented has been miniscule,” she said.
“So, now in the age of vaccines and boosters and PPE, we feel like if somebody has a negative COVID test even if they have some symptoms you know given the shortages they should be able to come to work.”
Hospitals statewide are required by California’s Department of Public Health to consider the option after using every other means and mandating asymptomatic health employees to always use N95 masks.
“Facilities and providers using this tool, should have asymptomatic COVID-19 positive workers interact only with COVID-19 positive patients, to the extent possible,” California health department explains.
The change, however, is risky for hospital staff and patients alike, the California nurses association raised.
“We are all starting to brace once again for another surge. It’s so exhausting and we’re morality distressed,” California Nurses Association president Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said.
“For us to go to work knowing that we are infected with the virus even if we do not have the symptoms. We know that we can potentially infect our patients and that is not right,” Triunfo-Cortez said.