ANA Concerned About CDC’s Guidance

 In Nurses Weekly

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is deeply concerned about the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for health care settings, citing insufficient evidence, concern for health care workers’ safety, and the potential for it to lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases. The emergency guidance shortens the time for isolation and quarantine for health care workers infected with or exposed to COVID-19. This guidance is premature given what is known about the Omicron variant and tips toward economic needs as opposed to the health needs of nurses and other health care workers.

Released on December 23, changes to the guidance are specific to contingency and crisis strategies that reduce the isolation period for nurses and other health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19.  ANA is concerned that the return-to-work guidance for all health care personnel under the updated mitigation strategies will endanger the health and safety of health care workers and those they encounter.

This guidance is especially problematic when reliable testing is not widely available, and particularly difficult to access in places experiencing surge conditions. In order for the revised guidance to work, health care employers must continue to provide ready access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and ongoing testing at the worksite to inform return-to-work status.

“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, PhD, 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.”

ANA met with and provided comments to the CDC expressing significant concerns about the proposed changes to this guidance. In September, ANA also urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to declare the current and unsustainable nurse staffing shortage facing our country a national crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated underlying, chronic nursing workforce challenges that have persisted for decades.

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