US hospitals allow infected employees to stay at work

Hospitals in the United States are increasingly taking extraordinary steps by allowing nurses and other workers infected with the coronavirus to stay at work if they have mild or no symptoms.

The move is a response to the acute shortage of staff in hospitals and the huge number of patients caused by the omicron option.

Over the weekend, California health authorities announced that hospital staff who tested positive but had no symptoms could continue to work. Some hospitals in Rhode Island and Arizona have also told staff that they can stay at work if they have no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

The highly contagious variant of omicron has caused the number of new COVID-19 cases to averaged over 700,000 per day in the United States, breaking the record set a year ago. The number of Americans in hospital with the virus is about 108,000, just below the peak of 124,000 in January last year.

Many hospitals are not only overwhelmed with cases, but also lack of manpower due to the fact that so many employees do not work with COVID-19.

At the same time, omicron causes milder disease than the delta variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month that symptom-free healthcare workers can return to work after seven days with a negative test, but isolation times could be shortened further if staffing shortages arise.

France announced last week that it is allowing health care workers with mild or no symptoms to continue to treat patients rather than isolate them.

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In the Phoenix area, Dignity Health, a major hospital operator, sent out a memo to employees saying that people infected with the virus who feel well enough to work can request permission from their managers to return to patient care.

“We are committed to ensuring that our employees can return to work safely, protecting our patients and staff from the transmission of COVID-19,” Dignity Health said in a statement.

Dignity Health Approves Arizona Hospital Virus Positive Workers

In California, the Department of Public Health said the new policy was prompted by a “critical staff shortage.” He asked hospitals to do whatever it takes to fill the vacancies by hiring staff from third-party recruiting agencies.

In addition, the department said infected workers will be required to wear N95 masks with additional protection and should be assigned to treat other COVID-19 patients.

The 100,000-member California Nursing Association opposed the decision and warned that it would lead to more infections.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state health leaders “prioritize the needs of healthcare corporations over the safety of patients and workers,” the association’s president, Katie Kennedy, said in a statement. “We want to take care of our patients and see them recover, not potentially infect them.”

Earlier this month, a state mental hospital and rehab center in Rhode Island allowed employees who tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms.

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