National Nurses United urges CDC to reverse isolation timeline cuts for healthcare workers

​​National Nurses United, the largest U.S. union of registered nurses, is condemning the CDC's new recommendation that trims the isolation period for asymptomatic healthcare workers with COVID-19 and no longer requires exposed vaccinated workers to quarantine.

On Dec. 23, the CDC updated its isolation and quarantine guidance for healthcare workers. 

Asymptomatic workers with COVID-19 can return to work after seven days — compared to the previously recommended ten — with a negative test. Isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages, the agency said. Healthcare workers with all recommended vaccine doses, including a booster, don't need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures, the CDC also said.

Additionally, on Dec. 27, the CDC shortened the recommended isolation time for all asymptomatic Americans with COVID-19 from 10 days to five, followed by five days of wearing a mask around others. Changes are motivated by efforts to limit the effects of staff shortages caused by COVID-19 on patient care and scientific evidence that the majority of COVID-19  transmission occurs early in the course of illness, the CDC said.

On Dec. 22, NNU sent a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, urging the agency to "maintain current guidance regarding isolation."

"Weakening COVID-19 guidance now, in the face of what could be the most devastating COVID-19 surge yet, will only result in further transmission, illness and death," wrote Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, president of NNU, adding that employers' arguments for reducing isolation time focus on maintaining business operations and profits "without regard for science or the health of employees and the public."

No longer requiring fully vaccinated and boosted healthcare workers to quarantine after a high-risk exposure ignores basic infection control practices, the NNU argues.

"Strengthening, not weakening, protections is the solution to the staffing crisis," said Ms. Triunfo-Cortez. "The hospital industry manufactured the current staffing crisis by imposing unsafe working conditions on nurses. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated long-standing staffing issues when hospitals failed to protect us and our patients."


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