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Authorities are Allowing Those with Omicron to Work

— January 21, 2022

Hospitals are keeping COVID-infected personnel at work.

Healthcare workers are being allowed to stay on the job if they’ve been infected with the coronavirus and are experiencing mild symptoms or are asymptomatic in order to care for the overwhelming increase in patients who have been admitted into hospitals as of late.  This move is meant to be a response to hospital staffing shortages and high patient rates amid omicron, which was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa in November 2021.  The highly contagious variant has caused an increase in the need for hospital support.

California health authorities announced this month that hospital staff who test positive for the coronavirus and any variant but are symptom free can continue to work.  Rhode Island and Arizona hospitals have told employees they can continue working if they are asymptomatic or mild symptoms.  Overseas in France, the country is also allowing healthcare workers with mild or no symptoms to stay at work.

Authorities are Allowing Those with Omicron to Work
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“We are doing everything we can to ensure our employees can safely return to work while protecting our patients and staff from the transmissibility of COVID-19,” Dignity Health in Phoenix, Arizona, which is one of the prominent healthcare institutions in the state, said.  It sent a memo to staff members asking those who have “the virus who feel well enough to…request clearance from their managers to go back to caring for patients.”

Experts report that amid omicron, COVID-19 cases have been up to “700,000 a day” across the U.S., and the number of people in the hospital with the virus is about “110,000.”  This means that there needs to be staff to support the impact of omicron and help patients amid the crisis.  The justification for keeping them on the job is that omicron tends to present with milder symptoms than other variants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that healthcare workers who have no symptoms can return to work “after seven days with a negative test,” but isolation time can be shortened to met staffing issues.  The agency indicated, “Due to concerns about increased transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant, this guidance is being updated to enhance protection for healthcare personnel (HCP), patients, and visitors and to address concerns about potential impacts on the healthcare system given a surge of SARS-CoV-2 infections.  These updates will be refined as additional information becomes available to inform recommended actions.”

The agency continues, “Maintaining appropriate staffing in healthcare facilities is essential to providing a safe work environment for HCP and safe patient care.  As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, staffing shortages will likely occur due to HCP exposures, illness, or the need to care for family members at home.  Healthcare facilities must be prepared for potential staffing shortages and have plans and processes in place to mitigate these shortages.  These plans and processes include communicating with HCP about actions the facility is taking to address shortages, maintaining patient and HCP safety, and providing resources to assist HCP with anxiety and stress.”

This move has been met with criticism that patients are continuing to be exposed to the virus while seeking care for it.  Whether the CDC will update its guidance has yet to be determined.


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SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant

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