California Allows Hospitals to Force COVID-Positive Asymptomatic Staff to Work to Address Staff Shortage
To ensure there's enough staff to handle the surge of COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant, the California Department of Public Health issued new guidelines for COVID positive employees.
According to the department's guidelines issued on Saturday, health care workers who test positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic would be allowed to return to work in the hospitals. No quarantine or testing will be required, Daily Mail reported.
The guidelines noted that asymptomatic COVID positive workers should only interact with COVID-19 positive patients "to the extent possible."
The California Department of Public Health also said hospitals had "to exhaust all other options before resorting to this temporary tool."
Advocates for Health Workers Outraged by New Protocols in California
Advocates for health workers were outraged by the announcement, claiming that hospital employees had been carrying the burden of the pandemic on their shoulders and are now being put at risk, along with their patients.
"It doesn't make sense," said Melanie Reno, a cytotechnologist at Kaiser Permanente in Fresno. "We're treating people at their most vulnerable, at their sickest, and we're expected to still go to work sick."
Reno noted that she had seen the strain on her colleagues since the onset of the pandemic.
"They just want you to come in and do your job. It doesn't matter if you're sick. It doesn't matter if you're tired. It doesn't matter if you're overworked," she said.
The guidelines also said that positive healthcare workers must wear an N-95 respirator for source control and suggests that positive workers use a separate break room or restroom when possible.
In a statement, the California Department of Public Health said this tool "is to provide temporary help to hospitals and emergency care providers to adapt to an unprecedented surge and staffing shortages."
The new rules go into effect starting Saturday and continue until February 1.
COVID Cases in California Continue to Surge
California has seen a seven-day average of 15,162 COVID cases, with over six million active cases reported in total. About 40 percent of hospitals are expected to face critical shortages.
The California Nurses Association (CNA) argued that the California Department of Public Health's measure would worsen the problem.
CNA president Sandra Reding said that instead of helping increase the number of healthcare workers, it would only increase the chance of nurses getting other nurses sick. She suggested setting up protocols to reduce transmission, which means not having COVID-positive people come to work.
The staffing shortages woes in California were reportedly exacerbated by Governor Gavin Newsom's vaccine mandate last year, which required health workers to get vaccinated or face termination.
It resulted in the suspension of more than 2,000 unvaccinated employees of the California health care consortium Kaiser Permanente in October.
Meanwhile, Newsom will deploy 200 California National Guard members to 50 testing sites across the state to serve as temporary clinical staff, while the permanent staff is hired in an effort to conduct more tests for more Californians.
This article is owned by Latin Post.
Written by: Jess Smith
WATCH: California Healthcare Workers Raise Concerns Over New State COVID-19 Protocols - From NBC Bay Area
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