Union joins calls for California hospitals to reconsider allowing back asymptomatic COVID-positive employees

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A union representing 32,000 registered nurses and healthcare professionals is urging hospitals to reconsider allowing its asymptomatic members who test positive for COVID-19 to return to work immediately without isolation or testing.

In a letter to employers, the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals expressed concern about recent California Department of Public Health guidance, which includes this return-to-work criteria. 

On Jan. 8, state officials temporarily revised its guidelines to allow asymptomatic COVID-19-positive employees back to work, effective through Feb. 1, citing "critical staffing shortages currently being experienced across the healthcare continuum because of the rise in the omicron variant." 

But the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals condemned the decision in its letter and asked Southern California hospitals, where its members work, to reconsider the new guidelines.

"Reconsider requiring asymptomatic staff who have tested positive to go to work — and thus expose and likely infect patients, RNs, and staff; as well as suffer a relapse and additional debilitating effects during and beyond COVID," the letter states. "Please join the systems that have wisely decided to forego this approach and help sick employees get well and protect their colleagues and patients."

The union's letter also calls on hospitals to provide COVID-19 sick leave and to seriously address chronic staffing issues with permanent solutions.

In addition to the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United and Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West have also pushed back against the new return-to-work guidance. 

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