The state updated its guidance to allow COVID-positive employees to continue working if their facility is "facing a staffing crisis."
Rather than calling back hundreds of healthcare workers who were fired or placed on unpaid leave for foregoing the coronavirus vaccine, Rhode Island updated its quarantine and isolation guidance to allow COVID-positive employees to continue working if their facility is “facing a staffing crisis,” Fox News reported.
“Also, facility administrators should be using their clinical judgment in making staffing decisions. For example, a facility may opt for a COVID-19 positive worker to only care for COVID-19 positive patients,” Department of Health (DOH) spokesman Joseph Wendelken told the Providence Journal this weekend.
Eleanor Slater Hospital employees received a memo on Friday saying, “Those who are exposed or have a positive Covid test but are asymptomatic” can go to work in a crisis staffing situation if they wear N95 masks.
The state-run hospital “utilized two asymptomatic COVID-positive staff members on Saturday, Jan. 1, and three on Monday, Jan. 3,” according to a spokesman.
Wendelken additionally told the Journal officials would rather sick staff go in to work because unvaccinated healthcare workers are reportedly “at greater individual risk, given how many COVID-19 positive patients are in facilities.”
“Additionally, someone who is vaccinated and who tested positive for COVID-19 has a much lower viral load, compared to someone who is COVID positive and unvaccinated. This means that the likelihood of transmission is much less.” He added that Rhode Islands is “implementing the CDC’s updated quarantine and isolation guidance….”
In a tweet this week, State Senator Jessica de la Cruz said the state should “admit its mistake” in firing healthy unvaccinated staff.
RIDOH will allow healthcare staff who test positive w/COVID to work but not unvaxxed healthcare staff who test negative?!
Its time for the state to admit its mistake. We need all hands on deck to address the healthcare crisis. Rehire these qualified & experienced professionals https://t.co/nzX41Nbz2b
— Senator Jessica de la Cruz (@JessicaforRI) January 2, 2022
“Rehire these qualified and experienced professionals,” she wrote.
Notably, staff members from Eleanor Slater Hospital filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Health for not providing religious exemptions. Rhode Island is one of three states whose coronavirus vaccine mandates do not include religious exemptions for healthcare workers.