REVERSAL: US State now allows COVID-positive staff to work, here’s why

Following CDC guidance, hospitals are advising staff that they may have to work even if COVID positive, after a vaccine mandate has caused a chronic staffing shortage.

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

COVID positive healthcare workers are being allowed to work in hospitals and residential homes in the U.S. state of Rhode Island even if they have symptoms, after the states’s COVID mandate for heath care workers left facilities chronically short staffed.

The rule change came to light after a memo was sent out at the state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital (ESH), informing staff that they can work even if they test positive for COVID, in the event of a staffing crisis, as long as they wear N95 masks, according to The Providence Journal.

The memo cited updated guidance from Rhode Island Department of Health, which advises that in a staffing crisis, COVID-infected workers who are “mildly symptomatic” should be allowed to work.

Health Department spokesman Joseph Wendelken told The Journal “This change was not unique to ESH. Last week Rhode Island updated its quarantine and isolation guidance for the general public and for healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes.” He added that the guidance was designed to reflect “a national change,” in ligt of updated guidance from the CDC, issued on December 23.

“For the general public, the updated guidance (which shortens the isolation and quarantine period in some instances) is reflective of science that indicates that most SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness,” Wendelken wrote.

“For healthcare providers, the CDC is recognizing that states across the country are experiencing healthcare worker shortages. If a facility is experiencing a significant staffing challenge, facility administrations may make a determination on the need to have … COVID-19 positive healthcare providers work. However, asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic workers should be considered first in these instances, and of course masks are required.”

He added: “Also, facility administrators should be using their clinical judgement in making staffing decisions. For example, a facility may opt for a COVID-19 positive worker to only care for COVID-19 positive patients.”

Asked who makes the call on whether a facility was facing a staffing crisis, Wendelkin said that was up to the facility’s administrators, adding that hospitals that do enter crisis staffing mode are obliged to notify the Department of Health, and post information on its website.

The decision to allow COVID positive staff to work has been met with derision by members of the state’s legislature, and the public alike.

Republican state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz Tweeted: “RIDOH will allow healthcare staff who test positive w/COVID to work but not unvaxxed healthcare staff who test negative?! Its time for the state to admit its mistake. We need all hands on deck to address the healthcare crisis. Rehire these qualified & experienced professionals.”