Shorter isolation rules set for health workers; 18 NC workers lose jobs over vaccine refusals

Published 10:29 pm Thursday, December 23, 2021

By Mike Stobbe

AP Medical Writer

NEW YORK  — Worried that a new COVID-19 wave could overwhelm understaffed U.S. hospitals, federal officials on Thursday loosened rules that call on health care workers to stay out of work for 10 days if they test positive.

Those workers now will be allowed to come back to work after seven days if they test negative and don’t have symptoms. Isolation time can be cut to five days, or even fewer, if there are severe staffing shortages, according to the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

“As the health care community prepares for an anticipated surge in patients due to omicron, CDC is updating our recommendations to reflect what we know about infection and exposure in the context of vaccination and booster doses,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

“Our goal is to keep health care personnel and patients safe, and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities,” she added.

Isolation is designed to keep infected people away from uninfected people, to prevent further spread of the virus.

CDC officials have advised that in calculating the 10-day isolation period, the first day should be the first full day after symptoms first developed or after a positive test. If a person develops symptoms sometime after a positive COVID-19 test, the quarantine period must restart, beginning one day after symptoms develop.

18 workers fired under NC order mandating COVID shot or test

RALEIGH (AP) — Eighteen North Carolina state workers been fired over their refusal to comply with an executive order Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper issued this summer compelling employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine or be tested weekly, as of Dec. 17.

The North Carolina Office of State Human Resources provided the dismissal figure to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The 18 fired state employees include six workers from the Department of Health and Human Services, five from the Department of Public Safety, three from the Department of Transportation and one each from four other cabinet-level agencies. They represent just 0.03% of the workforce Cooper’s order covers.

Under a separate directive, the state health department in October announced it dismissed 16 workers at state-operated healthcare facilities but did not immediately share with the AP whether more employees have since been fired.

The latest human resources report shows nearly 77% of the more than 53,000 cabinet-level employees included in Cooper’s order are vaccinated, with the transportation and public safety departments having the lowest vaccination rates at 64% and 67%, respectively.

“The vast, vast majority of them are in compliance with the executive order, and that means either being vaccinated or tested,” Cooper said in a news conference this week.