4 Nursing Organizations Release Statements Condemning CDC Quarantine Guidance
On Thursday, December 23rd the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) released newly updated guidelines regarding quarantine for healthcare workers in order to prepare for the Omicron variant surge.
"As the healthcare community prepares for an anticipated surge in patients due to Omicron, CDC is updating our recommendations to reflect what we know about infection and exposure in the context of vaccination and booster doses," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
While the guidelines are rooted in science per the CDC, many healthcare workers are irate at the change because additional information released made it clear that the guidelines were being changed in the setting of significant healthcare worker shortages.
The American Nurses Association, National Nurses United, as well as local and state nursing organizations have all released statements condemning the actions of the CDC for putting profits of hospitals over the health of its workers.
The new current guidelines from the CDC recommend the following,
- Healthcare workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic can return to work after 7 days with a negative test, and that isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages.
- Healthcare workers who have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including a booster, do not need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures.
A major concern regarding the new guidelines is the ability for healthcare facilities to further cut the isolation to five days OR if the healthcare facility is in crisis mode - the COVID+ individual will have to work regardless.
And numerous healthcare organizations have already cut the isolation guidelines beyond the recommended 7 days per the CDC. A major children’s hospital on the East Coast as well as a multi-state healthcare organization has recommended 5 days of isolation for symptomatic COVID+ healthcare workers.
4 Nursing Organizations React To The Change in Quarantine Guidelines
1. National Nurses United Responds
Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers have condemned the changes. National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the U.S., immediately put out a press release and tweet regarding the updated guidelines. On Dec. 22, NNU sent a letter to the CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, signed by NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, urging the agency to “maintain current guidance regarding isolation after a positive SARS-CoV-2 test for health care workers, other frontline workers, and the general public.”
Unfortunately, the CDC did not issue a response to NNU’s multiple platforms. In a statement accompanying the press release, Triunfo-Cortez urged, “Our goal is to protect patients and keep nurses healthy and safe on the frontline. Sending frontline nurses and other health care workers to work while infected would be dangerous. Employers must be held accountable in preventing infections in the first place.”
Triunfo-Cortez’s statement added, “Strengthening, not weakening protections, is the solution to the staffing crisis. 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.”
2. The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA)
New York has seen a dramatic rise in COVID+ cases not only amongst healthcare workers, but also the general public due to the highly contagious Omicron variant. After dealing with a tragic first wave of COVID, New York has taken another hit. According to NYC.gov, it’s experiencing a 26.94% positivity rate over the last seven days which is up from 16.67% from the last 28 daily average. As of December 31st, there were an average of 27,078 total cases daily which is again up from 13,595.
The rise in cases has prompted Gov. Kathy Hochul to loosen quarantine guidelines for fully vaccinated essential workers. She says they can return to work masked five days after testing positive, but only if they are asymptomatic and have had no fever for 72 hours.
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) reacted to the CDC’s new guidance, reducing the isolation period for healthcare workers. Specifically, the statement includes “this guidance is inconsistent with proven science, vague and doesn’t provide definitions or explain standards at a time when decision-making for healthcare systems is critical.”
More specifically, the “NYSNA condemns the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s recent emergency guidance as potentially dangerous for healthcare workers and the communities we serve.” Ultimately, the NYSNA feels that “This guidance is only going to worsen the shortage and put our patients at risk. Our healthcare workers deserve better and our patients deserve better.”
3. Minnesota Nurses Association
President Mary C. Turner, RN, released a statement on December 28th suggesting the new CDC guidance is outrageous and dangerous. The official statement more specifically stated, “This new policy will be a disaster for nurses and other essential workers on the frontlines. It may be good for businesses’ bottom lines to push their employees back to work faster, but it will put nurses, other workers, and the public at greater risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. “
4. The American Nurses Association
On December 29th, the American Nurses Association (ANA) released a very poignant statement urging policymakers to stop prioritizing the safety and health of healthcare workers over profits and margins.
“Nurses have endured intense stress for almost two years as the pandemic has persisted and evolved with the emergence of new variants. Despite exhaustion, nurses continue to provide care to patients under extremely difficult conditions,” said ANA President Ernest J. Grant, Ph.D., RN, FAAN.
“While staffing shortages are challenging for facilities experiencing a surge in cases, we must prioritize health care workers’ and patients’ health and safety, including allowing for sufficient time off for health care employees. I urge the CDC to reconsider these guidelines and for policymakers to aggressively pursue other strategies to bolster the health care system. We support the Administration’s steps to call up more surge teams and use the Defense Production Act to increase access to testing while continuing to use every strategy to increase the number of Americans who are fully vaccinated and boosted,” Grant wrote.
Unfortunately, it’s not only nurses that feel this way about the new guidelines. Doctors have taken to social media to express their concerns.
Since the CDC updated the guidance for healthcare workers it has also updated the guidance for the general public after testing positive for the coronavirus. Despite this updated guidance, healthcare workers and nursing organizations are still very concerned about the changes in the guidance because of constant exposure and risk to patients.
Furthermore, nurses are concerned because per the guidelines they are allowed to return to work while being mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic. Unfortunately, this could potentially expose patients to the virus. And as a result - infecting others.
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