IDSA and SHEA Statement on CDC Updated Guidance for Health Care Personnel Isolation and Quarantine to Mitigate Staffing Shortages

December 23, 2021

The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America support the updated interim guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Managing Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection or Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and Mitigating Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages. The updated guidance allows health care personnel who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 to return to work more rapidly in contingency and crisis situations. Specifically, in contingency situations, health care personnel with mild or asymptomatic infection may return following 5 days of isolation with improving symptoms. In crisis settings, health care personnel may have no restrictions, with prioritization of mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. When available, testing can also support safe return to work, and vaccination of all health care personnel remains critical.  IDSA and SHEA also support the CDC guidance to allow boosted health care personnel to continue working without restrictions following exposure to COVID-19.

These approaches are crucial to ensure we have the necessary health care workforce to respond to the growing Omicron surge, and we greatly appreciate CDC updating its guidance so rapidly.  While data on Omicron remain limited, data from previous variants can be used to inform our current response and meet immediate pressing needs as we collect more data on Omicron. The best available data indicate that the majority of health care personnel are fully vaccinated, and vaccinated individuals generally experience shorter duration of illness and lower viral load and clear COVID-19 infection more rapidly. Well-fitting facemasks should always be worn in health care settings and are also highly effective at preventing transmission. This evidence supports the updated CDC interim guidance.

Leaders of infection prevention and control efforts at health care institutions should be empowered to implement this guidance to best meet the needs of their individual settings, including adopting extra precautions for health care personnel who predominantly work with immunocompromised patients.

Expanding access to antigen testing—particularly for health care personnel—will be critical to support our national response. We support the plan announced by President Biden earlier this week to deploy additional health care personnel, expand hospital capacity, provide essential medical supplies and increase access to testing and vaccination.

As our nation’s health care systems face the potentially largest COVID-19 surge yet, we implore all eligible individuals to get vaccinated and boosted and employ layered prevention strategies including masking indoors to help prevent transmission, severe disease, hospitalization and death. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to demonstrate the critical importance of our health care workforce, including infectious diseases specialists and infection control experts, and the workforce gaps and shortages that continue to place patients and public health in peril. While our immediate focus must be on our response to the Omicron surge, we strongly urge policymakers to ensure that future efforts to assess lessons learned from this pandemic and strengthen our future preparedness include the necessary long-term investments in this workforce.

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