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COVID: Changing Guidelines Create Confusion For Bay Area Employers, Workers

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- The fast-spreading Omicron variant has forced agencies from the Centers for Disease Control to the California Health Department to pivot and change course on some of their COVID-19 guidelines. It is leaving many confused with what they can and cannot do. Part of the problem is that the guidelines differ from one department to another.

Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced healthcare workers who test positive for COVID but are vaccinated and asymptomatic can still show up for work.

"Is it worse to not have anybody there at all? And have to close hospitals and nursing homes because of staff shortages. I don't know, these are all Hobson's choices," said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

According to the California Department of Health, this is not a requirement but gives hospitals flexibility in case of staffing shortages. Especially in emergency rooms, where visits have doubled compared to the same day last year.

"The sheer numbers of COVID patients that we have in the emergency room is much much higher than it has been during previous surges," said Dr. Maria Raven, UCSF's Chief of Emergency Medicine.

UCSF has not adopted the newly released state guidelines but the Omicron surge has created confusion as workplaces outside the medical field try to figure out how to get employees back quickly and safely.

Dr. Raven adds, "It's incredibly confusing for people. I think one way to make it simpler for people is do you have symptoms or do you not."

State and federal guidelines differ on whether or not to have to test out after 5 days.

Dr. Maria Raven feels this is all part of the transition to learn how to coexist with COVID.

"I think this is the time," said Raven. "I think people need to understand that this is not going away be we kind of can't keep living in this media frenzy of what's going to happen next."

Dr. Ravin adds, "In my opinion, if you do not have symptoms and you feel fine and you're vaccinated and you're boosted and you can mask, in most situations you're going to be ok to go out there and do your thing."

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