Summa Health allowing employees with mild COVID-19 to come to work

Summa Health in Akron, Ohio, has updated its employee COVID-19 quarantine protocol to allow employees who test positive to return to work if they have no or mild symptoms, a health system spokesperson confirmed to Becker's

The spokesperson, Mike Bernstein, said Summa Health has implemented the updates based on new CDC guidelines and in consultation with the organization's infectious disease specialists and healthcare partners. 

The CDC's isolation protocol, updated Dec. 27, shortened the recommended isolation time from 10 days to five for asymptomatic Americans or those whose symptoms are resolving and have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medications. Isolation for those individuals may end after those five days, followed by five days of masking up around others, according to the guidance.

Before making changes for the public, the CDC also reduced the recommended isolation period for asymptomatic healthcare workers Dec. 23, from 10 to seven days — with a negative test. In the event of staff shortages, that isolation time can be cut further, the CDC said, adding that healthcare workers who have received a complete vaccination series, plus a booster, don't need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures to the virus.

At Summa Health, asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic employees will be allowed to continue to work, under certain conditions, Mr. Bernstein said.

"Employees with a fever are not permitted to work," he said. "Making these updates allows us to enhance the care of our patients by ensuring we are well staffed at a time when having available staff is critical. The number of employees who are out varies on a daily basis."

Under the updated protocol, unvaccinated employees (those with either a medical exemption or religious accommodation) who have tested positive and have no or mild symptoms can return to work after isolating for five days, if they have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without using medications and their symptoms do not become more severe, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, which cites a memo to staff released Dec. 30. 

Fully vaccinated employees who have tested positive and have no or mild symptoms may continue to work, according to the newspaper. However, fully vaccinated employees with mild symptoms but who have a fever should isolate for five days or until they have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without using medications and their symptoms have not become more severe.

Summa Health, a health system in the Cleveland metropolitan area, has about 8,000 employees.

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