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Are San Diego Hospitals following state's return to work guidance?

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 12:09:23-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — California's updated COVID-19 guidance for health care personnel (HCP) is drawing major criticism from nurses across the state.

"Governor Newsom, rescind this dangerous policy. It's ridiculous. Rescind it," Cathy Kennedy, President of the California Nurses Association, said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

The interim return-to-work policy by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) states health care personnel who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic may return to work immediately without isolation or testing.

"You're shedding the virus whether you're asymptomatic or not, so why in the world would a nurse or a health care worker go immediately back to work to infect patients, visitors, and colleagues?" Kennedy said.

CDHP said the guidance, effective Jan. 8 through Feb. 1, is in response to severe staffing shortages many hospitals, including those in San Diego, face due to the omicron variant. 

ABC 10News reached out to local hospitals to see if they were adhering to the state's new guidance.

Kaiser, UCSD Health, Sharp Healthcare, and Scripps Health all stated they were not allowing asymptomatic health care workers to return immediately. Kaiser said they're following the CDC's update, which shortened isolation for asymptomatic health care workers to seven days and people in general to five days.

UCSD Health said if asymptomatic, health care workers may return to work on day five with a negative test or day ten without a test.

Scripps called the state's update an "unsafe practice." Instead, it's bringing staff back after five to seven days on a case-by-case basis.

Sharp Healthcare said it currently has around 700 employees out due to COVID. Only about 45 of them are asymptomatic. Sharp said those workers can return as early as day five with a negative test taken that same day or day eleven without a test.

The state's guidance said the return-to-work policy should be the last resort. Asymptomatic staff who return to work immediately must wear N95 masks and should be assigned to COVID-19 positive patients, when possible.