They have no idea what they are doing.
Following a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the fall, Rhode Island has announced that COVID-positive health care workers could continue working if their facility was facing a staffing shortage.
Talking to the Providence Journal on Saturday, a spokesman for Rhode Island’s department of health, Joseph Wendelken, said that facility administrators would be tasked with “using their clinical judgment in making staffing decisions.” He gave an example that a facility may only allow COVID-19 positive workers to care for COVID-19 positive patients.
His statements come after employees at state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital received a memo describing how –– in the event of a staffing crisis –– staff who had been exposed to the virus or were positive with COVID, but were asymptomatic, could continue reporting to work if they were wearing N95 masks.
The memo –– and statement by the health department –– is in line with CDC’s updated guidance on quarantine and isolation, which reflects science that virus transmission occurs early in the illness.
According to guidelines by the Rhode Island Health Department, before a hospital or nursing home can activate crisis staffing mode it needs to notify the department, in which case the department will make the information available to the public to ensure families and patients are aware.
Rhode Island, like many other states, had a vaccine mandate that required healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by October 1, 2021. As a result, hundreds of health care workers who hadn’t received the vaccine were terminated. But, staff shortages at Eleanor Slater meant 32 unvaccinated employees could keep their jobs.
Speaking to NBC 10, Democratic Govender Dan McKee revealed that he was disappointed the state hadn’t vaccinated everyone but emphasized that “right now our responsibility is to take care of patients in the hospital.”
The precautions by Rhode Island follow a nationwide medical staffing crisis that has seen some state leaders calling in the National Guard to reinforce facilities after unvaccinated health care workers were terminated last year because of the vaccine mandate.