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Southern Arizona hospitals allow some employees to work while infected with COVID-19

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 10:35 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The two largest medical providers in Southern Arizona will now allow employees to work, even if they test positive for COVID-19.

Banner Health confirmed Monday, it joins Tucson Medical center in this decision, following guidance from the CDC.

KOLD reached out to both Banner and TMC, but we only received a statement from Banner.

The statement reads, “We will allow asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic COVID-positive team members to safely return to work if they feel they are well enough to do so. Team members who return under these guidelines will be required to wear N95/KN95 masks for 10 days after a positive test.”

Banner says most of the staff is fully vaccinated and they expect them to only have mild symptoms, if any, if they become infected.

They say that is the reason the policy is changing to align with the CDC’s recommendations.

According to the CDC, employees can return if they are fever-free for 24 hours, their symptoms improve, and a minimum of five days have passed since the symptoms first appeared.

This comes as the omicron variant is spreading across Arizona and the state has seen new COVID-19 infections in the 20,000′s.

The spread is also weighing heavily on healthcare workers and packed hospitals.

“For months, basically Pima County has had, very few is just not it, maybe one or two ICU beds, maybe three available at any given time, which is very, very low,” Pima County supervisor and TMC physician, Dr. Matt Heinz said.

He says at least a third of ICU beds across the state and here in Pima County are occupied by COVID-19 patients. Health officials say Arizona hasn’t seen the Omicron peak yet.

“Volume is a big problem. It’s the volume. This is so much more easily transmitted from person to person,” Dr. Heinz added.

Since omicron is so easily transmitted, it leads to concerns of how safe it is for patients who are not infected to be treated by a healthcare worker who is positive for COVID-19.

KOLD asked Banner if patients would know beforehand if someone who has the virus would be treating them or if they would need to ask that specific healthcare worker.

After multiple calls and emails, Banner did not answer this question.

After several attempts to get answers from Banner, the only response we received stated that they will be holding a conference next week to answer questions about the new policy.

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