Some States Taking 'Extraordinary Step' on Nurses With COVID

They and other health care workers are being allowed to stay on the job
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 11, 2022 12:15 AM CST
Increasingly, Nurses With COVID Allowed to Keep Working
Clinical Nurse Supervisor Melinda Chapin, of Holderness, N.H., right, departs an isolation room while Edward Merrens, left, chief clinical officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, visits a COVID-19 patient at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, in Lebanon, N.H., Jan. 3, 2022.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

(Newser) – Health authorities around the US are increasingly taking the extraordinary step of allowing nurses and other workers infected with the coronavirus to stay on the job if they have mild symptoms or none at all, the AP reports. The move is a reaction to the severe hospital staffing shortages and crushing caseloads that the omicron variant is causing. California health authorities announced over the weekend that hospital staff members who test positive but are symptom-free can continue working. Some hospitals in Rhode Island and Arizona have likewise told employees they can stay on the job if they have no symptoms or just mild ones. In California, infected workers will be required to wear extra-protective N95 masks and should be assigned to treat other COVID-positive patients, the department said.

Many hospitals are not only swamped with cases but severely shorthanded because of so many employees out with COVID-19. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that health care workers who have no symptoms can return to work after seven days with a negative test, but that the isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages. The 100,000-member California Nurses Association came out against the state's decision and warned it will lead to more infections, saying in a statement that state health leaders "are putting the needs of health care corporations before the safety of patients and workers." Overseas, France last week announced it is allowing health care workers with mild or no symptoms to keep treating patients rather than isolate.

(Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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