Return to work restrictions for nursing home staffers who have received a COVID-19 booster shot have been significantly shortened when compared to vaccinated or unvaccinated counterparts under new federal health guidance designed to push more healthcare workers to receive the additional dose.
“We know how challenging nursing homes and all long-term care facilities have been in keeping their staff healthy and working. If you’re boosted, you can keep working,” Arjun Srinivasan, M.D., association director for healthcare associated infections at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday during a provider stakeholder call hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“You can not only serve your patients but you can also help your fellow staff members,” Srinivasan added.
The updated guidance was released days before Christmas by the CDC in response to concerns about the increased transmissibility of COVID-19 omicron variant. The quarantine and isolation recommendations take into account a healthcare worker’s vaccination status if they are exposed or infected with the disease. It also takes into account a facility’s staffing challenges it might be facing.
The staffing considerations are broken down into three categories: convention, contingency and crisis.
For boosted, vaccinated or unvaccinated healthcare workers infected with COVID-19, the recommendations call for staff to isolate for 10 days or 7 days with a negative test or improved symptoms.
Under contingency staffing, when a facility might have several workers out sick, the guidance allows for workers to be isolated for five days with or without a negative test if they’re asymptotic or mildly symptomatic and their condition has improved. Under crisis staffing, there are no work restrictions with prioritization considerations of asymptotic and symptomatic workers.
The work restrictions for staff exposed to COVID-19 depends on if they are boosted or not. For boosted workers, there are no work restrictions under both contingency or crisis staffing considerations. Under conventional, there are also no restrictions if they test Day 2 are between five and seven days after exposure.
“If you are not boosted, we do recommend that you be restricted from work for either 10 days if you’re not going to be tested or for seven days with a negative test,” Srinivasan said.
He explained that the different recommendations underscores the importance of why healthcare staff must get boosted.
“What we know is that if you’re boosted you are at a much, much lower risk of then contracting COVID,” he explained. “We feel comfortable saying if you are boosted and you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID, you do not need to be restricted from work.”