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LA Nurses Protest Protocols Directing Healthcare Workers Asymptomatic With COVID to Return To Work

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Nurses held a news conference in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday morning to protest California's decision to direct healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19, but are asymptomatic, to return to work.

COVID coverage at Martin Luther King Hospital
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 31: Registered nurses Fernando Fernandez, left, and and Akiko Gordon are working in the ICU with a covid-19 patient at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH) on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The California Department of Public Health issued new guidance Friday which states that healthcare workers who test positive for the coronavirus, but are asymptomatic, can return to work without testing or isolation periods.

The state guidance is in effect through Feb. 1 and is in response to the extreme staffing shortages, coupled with the spike in hospitalizations, brought on by the Omicron variant.

"During this time, Healthcare Personnel (HCPs) who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and are asymptomatic may return to work immediately without isolation and without testing, and HCPs who have been exposed and are asymptomatic may return to work immediately without quarantine and without testing," the directive reads. "These HCPs must wear an N95 respirator for source control. Facilities implementing this change must have made every attempt to bring in additional registry or contract staff and must have considered modifications to non-essential procedures."

RELATED: Healthcare Workers In California Will Be Required To Get COVID-19 Booster Shot

Nurses Tuesday held a news conference outside the L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting in the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. The news conference was organized by SEIU Local 721. They called on the board to take common-sense steps to keep healthcare workers and patients safe, including the cancellation of non-critical healthcare procedures and elective surgeries, tighter controls on visitation, and testing and isolation for workers exposed to COVID-19.

"The way that you drive this pandemic down is by staffing up properly: stop the county's overreliance on registries, on traveling nurse registries, on contracting out," nurse practitioner Ileana Meza told reporters.

As of Monday, there were 3,472 COVID-19 patients in L.A. County hospitals, according to state figures. The number of hospitalized COVID-positive patients has not been this high since February of last year, during a severe winter surge that at one point pushed the patient number above 8,000.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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