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COVID-19 'outbreak' reported at Rhode Island hospital after officials allowed COVID-positive staffers to work

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An outbreak of COVID-19 infections reportedly broke out inside a Rhode Island hospital after officials began allowing health care staff members who test positive for COVID to continue working.

What is the background?

After health care workers were fired last year for not being vaccinated against COVID-19, the Rhode Island Department of Health updated work restrictions for health care personnel who test positive for COVID.

The updated policy, which reflects guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, permit health care personnel to continue working under crisis situations if they test positive for COVID-19. The guidelines say "asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic" personnel may continue to work.

What happened now?

According to NBC News, the state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital in Rhode Island reported an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among patients after officials permitted asymptomatic staff members to continue working despite testing positive for COVID.

The outbreak has impacted more than two dozen patients, or about 14% of all patients at the hospital, WPRI-TV reported.

The hospital began using asymptomatic COVID-positive staff members on Jan. 1.

Responding to news of the outbreak, the hospital denied there was a connection between the use of COVID-positive staff members and the outbreak. The hospital, however, did not explained how officials arrived to that conclusion.

The statement said:

Questions have been raised as to whether the small number of asymptomatic staff who worked on two separate days caused the COVID cases at the hospital. The asymptomatic COVID positive workers are not connected to the COVID outbreak. Asymptomatic staff who worked Saturday and Monday worked only in the areas with COVID-positive patients, with one exception.

In the one instance, an asymptomatic staff member did work with patients who did not have COVID, but there have been no COVID positive cases reported in the area where this work took place.

Anything else?

Rhode Island nurses spoke out about the policy this week.

One registered nurse told Fox News the policy "abandoned common sense." Another registered nurse told the network she believed the new policy was "discriminatory" toward unvaccinated health care personnel, who faced consequences for not being vaccinated against COVID.

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