A big win on COVID testing

NewsNovember 30, 2020

After months of rallies, protests and high-level communications with state leaders, NUHW members have won our fight for comprehensive COVID-19 testing requirements covering acute care hospitals.

Last Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health issued the nation’s first regulations mandating weekly COVID-19 testing for acute care hospital workers. Under these rules, hospitals will be required to:

1) Test all workers weekly for COVID-19. Testing for higher-risk workers will begin the week of Dec. 7 and for all workers on Dec. 14. Weekly testing will be provided to all workers including those who don’t provide direct patient care, such as EVS, clerical workers and dietary workers.

2) Immediately test any worker with COVID-19 symptoms.

3) Test all newly admitted patients for COVID-19.

This is a huge, hard-fought victory in which our advocacy made a crucial difference. The agency’s original draft regulation did not require testing of all newly admitted patients or weekly testing of all hospital workers.

In a series of communications with the Department of Public Health, we made the case that it was critical to test all workers as well as all patients upon admission to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading in acute care hospitals.

To press our case, we provided state officials with details of NUHW member infection incidents, as well as media reports of rallies held by NUHW members and community allies calling for more testing in Northern and Southern California.

Gov. Newsom and his administration deserve credit for recognizing the urgency of the problem and taking decisive action to make hospitals test all workers every week and test patients upon admission. While many other states are even more overwhelmed with COVID cases, California state officials are once again taking the lead, nationally, in protecting healthcare workers and patients.

We are not letting up now. While this is an important victory for hospital workers, these new testing rules do not apply to workers in correctional facilities or home healthcare settings. Correctional facilities in particular continue to experience major COVID-19 outbreaks, and workers at those facilities must have protections similar to those provided to workers at nursing homes and acute care hospitals.