CDC allows COVID-19 positive nursing home staff to work in a crisis; Not yet justified

FOX Files

MADISON COUNTY, Ill. – Wednesday’s FOX Files report covered a Madison County nursing home that revealed CDC guidelines allowing a health care worker with a positive COVID test to keep working.

It’s Stearns Nursing & Rehab in Granite City, where there are a reported 91 positive cases and 12 deaths.

FOX 2 got involved last week when an employee said she was pressured to work while positive with COVID. The nursing home director declined to talk on camera but sent us CDC guidelines saying it’s OK in a staffing crisis.

The FOX Files took it to both state Health departments in Illinois and Missouri. Both responded to say we have not reached the crisis point where that’s justified, which they say is the intent of those CDC guidelines.

“Here in St. Louis, we’ve never reached that level,” said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

Garza said workers positive for COVID should have no reason to keep working in our region.

“We’ve never really been in that crisis sort of staffing model so we’ve been able to take care of our COVID patients and, if we have our workforce that has been tested positive or even if they’ve been exposed, we’ve been able to keep them isolated and quarantined – things like that – like you would do with the normal public,” he said.

Dr. Garza would not comment directly on the Stearns Nursing & Rehab situation – only what patients can expect when they visit hospitals. He said despite a record number of patients admitted Wednesday, the region is not in a staffing crisis.

“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve not been in that level of number of patients in our facilities and that’s really a tribute to the community keeping the infection rate down, so hopefully we’ll never get there, but these plans are in place for a reason. This is why they’re there,” he said.

Illinois Department of Health inspectors began investigating Stearns the day we first told you about the outbreak. Our investigation began last Monday.

Stearns won’t comment beyond sending us those CDC guidelines. We’ve featured two COVID positive residents, both who are reportedly not showing coronavirus symptoms.

Meanwhile, the Madison County Health Department’s last update on Stearns reported 91 COVID cases and 12 deaths. The number is growing by the week, as relatives keep checking on their loved ones. Illinois regulators say it may be weeks before they complete their investigation.

Previous report:
Spike in COVID cases at Madison County nursing home alarms families

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