New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced Friday that the state would allow frontline workers in health care and other “critical” services who test positive for COVID-19 to shorten quarantine times if they are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. The decision comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also adjusted isolation guidance for health care workers.
Under the new state guidelines, employers can allow workers to return after five days in isolation “in limited circumstances where there is a critical staffing shortage.” Previously, a 10-day quarantine was recommended. On Thursday, the CDC announced health care workers who tested positive could return to work after seven days, and the period could be shortened if there are staffing challenges
“We want to make sure that our critical workforce who we've relied on from the beginning, and my heart goes out to them filled with gratitude … we need you again, we need you to be able to go to work,” Hochul said Friday.
Hospitals across the country and in New York are grappling with a double whammy: an influx of patients and a deeply diminished workforce of doctors and nurses who are also sick.
While the federal recommendations focused on health care workers, the state guidance applies to a wide list of job titles, including those who work at grocery stores, schools, police and fire departments, airports, utilities and more.
To go back to work, employees must have no fever for 72 hours, improving symptoms, no runny nose and at most a “minimal” cough. They must also wear “well fitting” masks and are expected to “observe other required elements of isolation while not at work until the end of the 10-day period.” Immunocompromised individuals are not eligible for the shorter quarantine, the guidance says.
“So, these critical services that New Yorkers need – health care, transportation, grocery stores – all the things that we've identified as important,” Hochul said, “they can get back to work as soon as it is safe to do so.”
The day before Christmas, Hochul emphasized she will keep the state’s economy open through the growing surg. “We know how to do this,” she said. “We're not shutting down business. We're not shutting down schools and we're going to get through this safely.”
Hochul announced the state would continue to ramp up testing capacity, including one more site in each of the city's boroughs. There will also be additional sites at MTA stations that offer tests and vaccinations, including booster shots.
She said the state recorded 44,431 positive cases Thursday, and urged families to be cautious over the holiday weekend. “If you are also just feeling a little under the weather, just stay home,” she said. “Don't be the one that everybody talks about [at] your next get together and say, ‘oh, that was the one who was sniffling or not feeling well and feeling a little feverish, and they still showed up.’”