The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed a pandemic rule for health care workers on Thursday, but it's not because COVID-19 is under control. Fearing hospital staffs will be overwhelmed by the surge in cases, the CDC will allow workers who tested positive for the disease to end their quarantine sooner—going back to their jobs after seven days instead of 10. The change assumes the workers are asymptomatic and have tested negative, the Hill reports. The agency said it might shorten quarantines again if a staffing shortage occurs.
In addition, the CDC said workers who have had all the vaccine doses and boosters recommended won't have to isolate at home after high-risk exposures, unless they tested positive. In addition to hospitals, per the New York Times, the agency's guidelines apply to anyplace that provides direct patient care, including nursing homes and dental offices. Employers in other fields, such as the airline industry, have asked the CDC to change its recommendations on returning to work, per the Washington Post.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the increase in cases, including those involving the omicron variant, sparked the decision. "As the health care community prepares for an anticipated surge in patients due to omicron," she said in a statement, "CDC is updating our recommendations to reflect what we know about infection and exposure." The CEO of a hospital in New Jersey said retaining employees is his biggest worry now. "It's a concern that actually exceeds my concern over omicron-specific hospital admissions," Dr. Shereef Elnahal said, per CNBC. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)