California allows healthcare workers back to work after COVID-19 exposure, positive test

The California Department of Public Health temporarily revised its guidelines to allow healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic to return to work immediately without isolation or testing.

Effective Jan. 8 through Feb. 1, the return-to-work criteria was updated because of "critical staffing shortages currently being experienced across the healthcare continuum because of the rise in the omicron variant," according to the state health department. 

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United condemned the decision and demands that it be rescinded, according to a Jan. 8 news release.

"Gov. Newsom and our state's public health leaders are putting the needs of healthcare corporations before the safety of patients and workers," said Cathy Kennedy, RN, president of CNA. "We want to care for our patients and see them get better  —  not potentially infect them. If we get sick, who will be left to care for our patients and community?"

Eliminating the isolation time and having asymptomatic or exposed workers will guarantee more preventable transmission, cases, hospitalizations and death, the union said. 

California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is a union and professional association of registered nurses including 100,000 members in California and more than 175,000 nurses nationwide. Founded in 2009, National Nurses United is the result of a merger between the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, the United American Nurses and the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 

At the end of 2021, NNU condemned the CDC's recommendation that trims the isolation period for asymptomatic healthcare workers with COVID-19 and no longer requires exposed vaccinated workers to quarantine.

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