New York Shortens Isolation Time for Essential Workers Amid Hospital Staffing Shortages

New York shortened the isolation time for essential workers that test positive for COVID-19 on Friday in an effort to combat possible staffing shortages in hospitals across the state.

During a press conference, Governor Kathy Hochul said that starting today, she is issuing new guidance on returning to work for essential workers after they tested positive to return to work after five days if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and are asymptomatic or their symptoms have been "resolved."

"When they come back to work they have to wear a mask," Hochul said.

Hochul noted that her decision to shorten the isolation time for essential workers comes just a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), updated its own guidance for health care workers that test positive for COVID-19. On Thursday, the CDC shortened its isolation time guidance to seven days, with a negative test result. The CDC previously recommended a 10-day isolation for health care workers that tested positive for COVID-19.

"As the healthcare community prepares for an anticipated surge in patients due to Omicron, CDC is updating our recommendations to reflect what we know about infection and exposure in the context of vaccination and booster doses," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement announcing the updated guidance. "Our goal is to keep healthcare personnel and patients safe and to address and prevent undue burden on our healthcare facilities."

During the press conference on Friday, Hochul said that the updated isolation time can help "get people back to work so these critical services that New Yorkers soon as it is safe to do so."

Hochul also spoke about how the COVID-19 Omicron variant has resulted in a different situation when compared to previous variants like Delta.

"This is a very, very contagious variant," she said. "This is not delta. This is omicron, which thus far has demonstrated that it's not as severe in its impact. This is not the same situation we had in March 2020 or even last winter's surge. We've had more testing. We've had more opportunities."

According to data from the New York State Department of Health, the number of new COVID-19 cases have increased over the past several week. The state is currently averaging around 130 new daily cases per 100,00 residents. In comparison, at the start of the month, the state was averaging around 34 new daily cases per 100,000 residents.

Data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that nearly 80 percent of all inpatient hospital beds in New York are currently occupied. Roughly 75 percent of all intensive care unit (ICU) are also currently occupied in the state, data shows.

Newsweek reached out to Hochul's office for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

COVID-19 New York
New York shortened the isolation time for essential workers that have tested positive for COVID-19. Above, people self administer Covid-19 tests at a mobile site in the Elmhurst section of Queens on December 23, 2021 in New York. Bryan R. Smith/Getty