STATEMENT: From New York State Nurses Association in Response to CDC Emergency Guidance
NYSNA condemns the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s recent emergency guidance as potentially dangerous for healthcare workers and the communities we serve.
This guidance is inconsistent with proven science, vague, and doesn’t provide definitions or explain standards at a time when decision-making for healthcare systems is critical.
The CDC’s “contingency” strategies for “when staffing shortages are anticipated”, allow vaccinated healthcare workers who have higher risk exposures to continue to work and infected healthcare workers to work after 5 days, “as long as they are well enough”.
Healthcare worker infection rates are not being tracked and there’s no substantial evidence behind the CDC changing this guidance. But there is a healthcare staffing crisis the CDC cited as the justification for it.
We do know vaccination provides a spectrum of protection from infection depending on the type of vaccine, time since last dose, and immune status. The CDC itself admits, “Allowing HCP with SARS-CoV-2 infection or higher-risk exposures to return to work before meeting the conventional criteria could result in healthcare-associated SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”
So it makes no sense not to take every measure which would reduce risk of healthcare worker infection.
But the CDC changed these guidelines, without requiring all healthcare workers be supplied with N95s, home testing kits, or requiring portable HEPA filtration in areas like break rooms- measures that would protect healthcare workers and their patients.
Not prioritizing the safety and retention of healthcare workers from the beginning of the pandemic is what exacerbated staffing shortages. That’s job #1 in pandemic response.
This guidance is only going to worsen the shortage and put our patients at risk. Our healthcare workers deserve better and our patients deserve better.
Pat Kane, RN
New York State Nurses Association
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, visit nysna.org.