New California Order Permits Covid-19 Positive Health Care Workers to Return to Work

Under a new temporary guideline to combat the surge in COVID-19 patients, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) will allow health care workers to work if they are positive with COVID-19. The order will run until Feb. 1 and applies only to asymptomatic cases.

Article by Jamie Joseph from our premium news partners at The Epoch Times.

The new order was issued due to the high spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which has caused staffing shortages in all sectors including nurses. The spread is beginning to fill capacity at most hospitals.

“Given those conditions, [we are] providing temporary flexibility to help hospitals and emergency services providers respond to an unprecedented surge and staffing shortages,” a spokesperson from the department of public health said in an emailed statement.

“Hospitals have to exhaust all other options before resorting to this temporary tool. Facilities and providers using this tool, should have asymptomatic COVID-19 positive workers interact only with COVID-19 positive patients, to the extent possible, and ensure the workers are always wearing N-95 respirators,” the CDPH said.

A hospital staff member peers through the window of an outside tent area of Hoag Hospital in Irvine, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

According to the new rule, such healthcare workers can return to work immediately without isolation or testing and should be assigned to work with COVID-19 positive patients, outside of emergency settings.

But not all agree with the new guideline.

The California Nurses Association is calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to rescind the decision citing safety concerns.

“Governor Newsom and our state’s public health leaders are putting the needs of health care corporations before the safety of patients and workers,” association President Cathy Kennedy, RN, said in a statement Jan. 8. “We want to care for our patients and see them get better – not potentially infect them. Sending nurses and other health care workers back to work while infected is dangerous.”

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California was the first state to implement strict vaccine mandates for healthcare workers. Those who did not abide have been suspended or fired.

A nurse recieves a COVID-19 vaccination at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The shifting guidelines come days after the state-mandated that all health care workers must receive a booster shot by Feb. 1.

Most nurses across the nation, according to local reports, have complied and 70 percent of nurses were vaccinated as of Sept. 2021.

A nurse, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing her job, told The Epoch Times that when she was first made aware of the new guidelines,her initial reaction was confusion.

“The narrative by hospital administration prior to these new guidelines were enacted was ‘get vaccinated or be let go,’ and we know that this is exactly what happened to many nurses,” she said.

It’s not clear if the new rule will help stave off potential shortages of care or only add to increasing sickness from the virus. But some nurses, according to a 2021 report by UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care, say many have had enough.

Data analysis in the report indicates many older registered nurses have already left the profession and many intend to retire or quit within the next two years.

Anecdotal reports, cited in the report, also found nurses quit during the pandemic out of fear of contracting COVID. Others, the report said, walked away from their jobs to recover emotionally from the high stress of working during a pandemic.

Health care workers at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Meanwhile, the report said, fewer are enrolling in school to become nurses.

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The nurse—who spent most of 2020 living in an Airbnb so she wouldn’t infect her family at home at the then height of transmissions—said she can’t speak to the science behind asymptomatic spread, but that it’s time hospital administrators to advocate for their employees and put “politics and agendas aside,” so nurses can do their good work caring for the sick.

“My fear is, particularly within the nursing community, we’ve allowed the overwhelming noise and heartbreak from multiple angles to harden our hearts,” she said.

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