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California orders hospitals to expand COVID-19 testing for staff

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Sacramento, CA — The California Department of Public Health has directed general acute-care hospitals to conduct weekly COVID-19 testing of all health care workers and newly admitted patients, along with immediately testing employees with signs or symptoms of the disease.

According to a CDPH letter dated Nov. 25 and sent to hospital employers, “all health care personnel should be included in the weekly screening testing program to maximize the strategy for prevention of outbreaks.”

The department defines health care personnel as “all paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.” Those include, but aren’t limited to, nurses, emergency medical services workers, physicians, technicians, therapists, pharmacists, phlebotomists, students, trainees and contractual staff.

CDPH’s recommended testing strategies, as informed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, include:

  • Testing health care personnel with signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
  • Testing asymptomatic personnel with known or suspected exposure to COVID-19.
  • Testing asymptomatic personnel without known or suspected exposure to COVID-19 for early identification.
 

CDPH recommends hospitals that implement staff testing programs include policies and procedures that address the use of test results.

In a press release, National Nurses United calls the infection control measure a “tremendous victory” for nurses and other health care workers.

“This is an amazing and welcome move,” California Nurses Association President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said. “There are simply too many asymptomatic people with COVID-19, and without robust testing, our hospitals will remain centers for spreading the disease instead of centers of healing as they should be.”

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