Nurses and other health workers who are infected with the COVID-19 virus continue their service as US health officials take unusual measures to address the shortage in staff and overwhelmed hospitals due to the continued surge of infections.

Health authorities allow hospital staff to report for duty as long as they exhibit mild symptoms or if they are asymptomatic.

Over the weekend, California health officials that hospital staff members who got tested positive for the dreaded virus but showed no symptoms could carry on in their duties. The same policy was implemented in hospitals in Rhode Island, and Arizona wherein employees of medical facilities are allowed to stay on the job if they got no signs or just mild symptoms of COVID-19, as per Associated Press report.

Many hospitals in the US are overwhelmed with increased COVID-19 hospitalizations but have staff shortages because employees call in sick.

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Overwhelmed Hospitals

The highly transmissible but mild omicron variant has become the dominant strain in the US after it prompted an explosion to more than 700,000 cases in one day, which beat last year's record high. While the number of people being hospitalized due to the virus is currently at 110,000, a bit lower than the highest record one year ago, which is around 124,000.

In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that health care workers who are COVID-19 positive but got no symptoms can go back to work after seven days with a negative test. However, the isolation period can be shortened if there is a lack of hospital staff, which is expected in the current situation in the country, according to a report from ABC News.

The department also said that Infected workers must wear extra protective N95 masks and must be assigned to treat COVID-19 positive patients.

California Hospital Association Spokesperson Jan Emerson-Shea said that they do not have any information on whether hospitals will adopt the approach. Still, they expect an overwhelming increase in the number of patients in the next few days.

Keep Nurses Safe

Meanwhile, the California Nurses Association condemns the decision by the California Department of Public Health to allow COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic health care workers to report back to work right away without being tested or isolated, as per US News.

According to CNA President Cathy Kennedy, such policy puts the lives of health workers and patients at risk.

"Governor Newsom and our state's public health leaders are putting the needs of health care corporations before the safety of patients and workers. We want to care for our patients and see them get better - not potentially infect them," she said.

She added that allowing infected nurses and other health care workers to work is dangerous. " If we get sick, who will be left to care for our patients and community?"

Kennedy even stressed that nurses' health must be protected and ensure that they are safe while performing their duties in the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. She added that taking away isolation time could lead to increased risks of transmissions, hospitalizations, and even death.

"We must protect patients and keep nurses healthy and safe," said Kennedy.

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