The Oklahoma Nurses Association Statement on the use of Asymptomatic COVID-19 Positive Nurses
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The Oklahoma Nurses Association opposes the use of asymptomatic COVID-19 positive nurses. We have not yet exhausted the list of CDC’s recommendations nor the list ONA and other nursing groups sent to the Governor last week. Why would we imperil our nurses, patients, and other health care staff by resorting to the use of asymptomatic COVID-19 positive nurses when we haven’t exhausted other strategies?
ONA does NOT consider the use of these nurses as an ideal solution to a serious staffing shortage. COVID-19 symptoms can appear as soon as 2 days or up to 14 days following exposure despite being asymptomatic at the time of testing. The health and safety of nurses is paramount as is the health and safety of the patients they care for. ONA maintains that COVID-19 positive nurses have the right to choose whether they are well enough to work. Under no circumstances should a nurse be pressured to work, and employers should never retaliate against nor penalize a nurse for choosing to prioritize self-care. We must minimize the spread of COVID-19 to other staff and patients within health care settings.
ONA sent a letter in partnership with other nursing groups to the Governor on November 9 with recommendations to assist hospitals with staffing concerns that included (1) Contracting with a staffing agency that crowdsources nurses and other health care workers for Oklahoma hospitals; (2) Develop and fund a marketing campaign to attract nurses who may have licenses that are inactive and other Oklahoman’s who might be out of work, to work in Oklahoma hospitals expanding the reach of our bedside nurses, and (3) Allocate Cares Funds to pay these crowdsourced nurses so that they are competitively paid with nurses such as in Texas that are receiving $150 per hour. The Governor has yet to respond regarding these recommendations.
Until Oklahoma has ways to mitigate the spread of this virus including a face mask requirement in all counties that exceed 1.43 or more new cases per 100,000 population, it is not reasonable to ask asymptomatic COVID-19 positive nurses to work. These nurses have a greater possibility of spreading this virus even further with this reckless recommendation.