St. Charles to examine furlough policy following new CDC quarantine guidance


St. Charles Health System said Tuesday it likely will revise its furlough policy to reflect new guidance from the CDC that allows caregivers to return to work faster after a COVID exposure. 

Last week, the agency loosened rules that previously called on health care workers to stay out of work for 10 days if they test positive.

The new recommendations said workers could go back to work after seven days if they test negative and don’t have symptoms.

And the agency said isolation time could be cut to five days, or even fewer, if there are severe staffing shortages.

On Monday, the CDC changed the isolation and quarantine guidance for the general public to be even less stringent.

“Even a small reduction of a few days of quarantine per caregiver will contribute exponentially to the workforce hours we’ll have available to support the health care needs of the community through this anticipated omicron surge,” Lisa Goodman, St. Charles’ Public Information Officer told Central Oregon Daily News in an email.

CDC officials said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that the coronavirus is most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptom onset.

The decision also was influenced by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the omicron variant.

Early research suggests omicron may cause milder illnesses than earlier versions of the coronavirus.

But the sheer number of people becoming infected — and therefore having to isolate or quarantine — threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open, experts say.

Locally, COVID cases are once again on the rise. 

Central Oregon reported 637 COVID cases last week, up from 434 the week before. 

Goodman said the Oregon Health Authority has developed an Omicron Response Plan, which allows hospitals around the state to extend contract staffing and bring in more nurses from out of state.

“For St. Charles, this means we’ll be able to keep the 140 or so nurse travelers we currently have through March 31,” Goodman said. 

She added that the hospital realizes COVID fatigue exists, but the community needs to keep up vaccination efforts, get boosted and keep wearing masks to mitigate the impact of an expected omicron surge.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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