Health workers can now work 10 days after COVID-19 infection as outbreaks, hospitalizations grow

EDMONTON — As continuing care home outbreaks and hospitalizations continue to grow, Alberta health care workers who test positive for the coronavirus can now return to work after 10 days if they’re symptomless.

Albertans are allowed to leave isolation after 10 days if they feel OK, but Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw had decided to be more cautious with health care workers and tacked four days to their quarantine.

“After review, we have now decided that it’s time to bring the approach for healthcare workers safely in line with that for all other cases,” Hinshaw tweeted Friday.

Nearly 250 Albertans are receiving care for COVID-19 in hospital, including 54 patients in ICU. There are outbreaks at several hospitals and long-term care facilities in Edmonton, including 146 cases at South Terrace Continuing Care as of Wednesday.

Dr. Dave Zygun, Alberta Health Services’ medical director in the Edmonton zone, told CTV News they explored all possibilities to minimize the strain on the health system.

“We can’t do this without a lot of careful thought and precautions because we could make things worse if people come back too soon and potentially infect other healthcare staff,” he said.

The vice president for United Nurses of Alberta, Cameron Westhead, is concerned health officials made this call before they proved it was safe.

Dr. Zygun says it has worked in other jurisdictions, but Westhead worries infections could worsen as a result.

“The scientific advisory group hasn’t really provided us with strong enough evidence for us to get behind this,” Westhead said.

The order is effective immediately.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Bill Fortier

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