As the number of coronavirus cases in NY state sky-rockets to19,000 +, healthcare workers and EMS in the NY area will no longer be tested due to area hospitals being overwhelmed.
Bloomberg News reports that hospital executives confirmed that dozens of their own medical workers have been stricken by the virus. Some hospitals are abandoning tests of workers who show no symptoms and are sending them back to care for patients. They are acting reluctantly and wary of alienating their staffs, but can do so within the emergency guidelines issued by the state and federal government.
One doctor at an NYU Langone Hospital said that if workers had been in contact with an infected person—at home or at work—they must report to work unless they show symptoms. They’re not being tested and are told to wear a surgical mask at all times.
At the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, one nurse is under treatment in the intensive care unit, and union officials complain that members who fear they’ve been exposed must return to work without testing if they have no symptoms.
Caregivers and emergency personnel are falling ill just when they are most needed, as the New York area has overtaken Seattle as the nation’s primary hot zone.
Anthony Almojera, the vice president of the Local 3621 FDNY EMS officers union in New York City, one of the largest unions of its kind in the nation, said, “Coronavirus testing also hasn’t been available to the city’s more than 3,000 emergency medical services personnel, including paramedics and emergency medical technicians.” He added, “At least 150 of the personnel are sidelined with what they take to be coronavirus.”
Quarantines of 14 days have generally been advised for anyone with direct contact with an infected person as a safeguard to protect individuals and slow the spread of the virus.
For healthcare workers, the practice was similar. New York State recently issued emergency guidelines allowing exposed workers to simply self-monitor—taking their temperature twice a day and wearing masks while in the hospital.
They are instructed to work only in wards dedicated to COVID-19 patients.