Search Twitter for recent posts regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and you will find a string of tweets from nurses, some of which have gone viral, opposing the federal agency’s new guidelines for isolation after a positive COVID test.
“This new policy will be a disaster for nurses and other essential workers on the frontlines,” Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary C. Turner, RN, tweeted Dec. 29. “It may be good for businesses’ bottom lines to push their employees back to work faster, but it will put nurses, other workers, and the public at greater risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus.”
Earlier this week, the CDC said it was shortening the recommended isolation time for asymptomatic Americans with COVID-19 from 10 days to 5 days. Just prior to Christmas, on Dec. 23, the CDC released emergency guidance for healthcare workers in light of global staffing shortages amid a surge in COVID cases attributed to the Omicron variant.
The CDC ruled at that time that healthcare workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic can return to work after 7 days with a negative test, and that isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages.
“Healthcare workers who have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including a booster, do not need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures,” the CDC stated.
While there was plenty of opposition on Twitter, at least one national nursing organization told Medscape Medical News it supports the CDC’s updated recommendations.
“The guidelines are based on emerging data and it’s critical that we evolve to follow the science,” April N. Kapu, DNP, APRN, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, wrote in a statement for Medscape Medical News.
“It is understandable that changes in guidelines may be confusing and that’s why we encourage all patients to have conversations with their chosen health care provider. We will manage our way through this pandemic, but in order to do so we must continue to gather the facts, ensure everyone is fully vaccinated and follow the experts’ recommendations.”
Kapu stressed the CDC requirement to be asymptomatic, “that is without fever, cough, runny nose, sneezing, headache, or fatigue that has characterized Omicron. We should pay attention to this part of the overall message and make sure none of the symptoms are present before going back to work or school with a mask.”
NNU doesn’t share AANP’s approval of the changes. In two separate releases a week apart, NNU condemned the CDC’s “weakening” of COVID isolation guidelines “right when the Omicron variant is exploding across the country during a winter surge,” putting lives at risk.
“Nurses have fought since day one of this pandemic for protections based on science and the precautionary principle,” NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, stated in the latest release.
“While the CDC claims the ‘change is motivated by science,’ nurses emphasize that the weakened isolation guidelines are motivated by the employers wanting workers back on the clock fast, regardless of whether it’s safe, to maximize their profits.”
NNU claims that shortening the isolation time for COVID-positive people will increase transmission.
“Strengthening, not weakening protections, is the solution to the staffing crisis,” Triunfo-Cortez said.
NNU, which represents more than 175,000 members, announced that it would be holding a national day of action Jan. 13 “to draw attention to the failure of the federal government and employers to protect patients, nurses, health care and other front line workers.”
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) also voiced opposition to the CDC changes, “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,” Pat Kane, RN, executive director of NYSNA, stated in a Dec. 24 release.
“This guidance is only going to worsen the shortage and put our patients at risk.”