Athletes get regular COVID tests; healthcare workers should, too

COVID-19July 30, 2020

Dear NUHW Member:

You may have read that professional baseball and football players will both be tested for COVID-19 every other day this season to protect their health.

Unfortunately, we all know that most healthcare workers can’t even get tested by their employers when they’ve been exposed to COVID-19. That must change, and we are working hard to change it.

We are scheduling conversations with leading elected officials across the state, including Governor Newsom, to build support for our plan to require regular testing of healthcare workers inside hospitals and correctional facilities. We’re also addressing our testing proposal with our employers.

In a nutshell, we’re asking Newsom to expand many of the testing protocols he required for nursing homes to hospitals and jails, which are at similarly high risk for rapid transmission of the coronavirus.

We have heard from our members at nursing homes that the testing requirements put in place by the California Department of Public Health, at Newsom’s direction, have significantly helped reduce the risk of COVID transmission. And we believe that had Kindred Hospital Brea been required to test workers and patients, it would have averted the outbreak that killed NUHW member Roda Vicuna, a nurse at the hospital.

Here are the testing provisions we are urging the state to adopt for healthcare workers in hospitals and jails:

  • Testing of Patients: Test all newly admitted, re-admitted, and newly treated patients for COVID-19 infection. Also, test all patients when they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or have a known exposure to COVID-19.
  • Baseline testing of all healthcare workers: Test all staff of inpatient facilities and home health agencies.
  • Surveillance testing of workers: After the baseline round of testing, test 25% of all workers every seven days, such that 100% of the staff is tested each month.
  • Testing of symptomatic workers: Test healthcare workers when they have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Exposure-driven testing: Test healthcare workers when they have had an exposure (without adequate PPE such as an N95 respirator) to Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) or confirmed COVID-19 cases (whether patients, coworkers, or individuals in their family or in the community).

This should have been the testing standard from Day One of the pandemic. And there is no excuse not to implement it now.

It’s easy to assume that athletes are getting tested frequently because professional sports are multi-billion dollar businesses. But, so are hospital companies. Providence St. Joseph, which employs more than 2,000 NUHW members, has cash reserves totaling $12 billion — more than enough to buy the Giants and the Dodgers. And, it has already received more than $500 million in federal stimulus funding.

Our employers can afford to regularly test employees and patients. And, we are intent on making them do it.

In Unity,

Sal Rosselli, President
Sophia Mendorza, Secretary-Treasurer
National Union of Healthcare Workers