Nursing home claims it’s allowed to have COVID positive employees working under a staffing crisis

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MADISON COUNTY, Ill. – A Madison County nursing home is under investigation as it fights a COVID outbreak of nearly 100 people that have killed 12.

FOX 2 has learned the nursing home claims it can have COVID positive employees working.

A Stearns Nursing and Rehab employee told FOX 2 she tested positive for COVID and was told she could keep working. She was afraid to talk on camera but said she refused to go to work while positive.

We asked Stearn’s director if the nursing home is telling people to go to work while positive. She sent the following CDC guidelines, which may shock you.

The nursing home falls under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines titled “Mitigating Staff Shortages.”

CDC Guidelines on Mitigating Staff Shortages

The guidelines say, in part, “As a last resort, allow HCP (Health Care Provider) with confirmed COVID-19 to provide direct care for patients without suspected or confirmed COVID-19.”

The Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) confirmed this to Fox 2, but writes:

“While the CDC allows a positive employee who is asymptomatic to continue working if there is a staffing shortage, IDPH discourages it.

“This should only be considered if:

  • The facility is in crisis staffing and the positive staff are asymptomatic
  • There is no alternative after they have exhausted all options including overtime, staffing agency, Illinois Helps, borrowing staff from corporate or local hospital, etc. and they must document these efforts.
  • Positive staff are strictly cohorted with only COVID-19 recovered or positive residents, and recovered or other asymptomatic positive staff.
  • It is typically several weeks before inspection reports are finalized.”

The nursing home will not tell us how many employees have COVID out of the near 100 reported to be infected.

Meanwhile, Stearns is fighting a COVID outbreak that’s growing by the day. We were there last week when Mindy Winning visited her 81-year-old mother with glass dividing them.

Winning says she was told her mother is positive but asymptomatic, as is 100-year-old Gladys Sherrod.

“She was tested on the 8th of this month and we didn’t find out until last week,” said Fred Sherrod, Gladys’ son.

Fred says his mother survived polio as a child and a broken hip when she was 70, but this latest battle seems toughest because his mom is alone. He says she is also reported to be asymptomatic, but that he struggles to get updates from nursing home staff.

“People who love those people are concerned because they’re not getting any feedback. They’re not getting any information,” he said.

At last count, the Madison County Health Department reported Stearns Nursing and Rehab had 91 COVID cases and 12 deaths as of Friday. We’ll keep you posted on the Illinois Health Department’s investigation.

We’re also following up on those CDC guidelines to see if anyone else is reporting that they’re allowed to have health care professionals who have tested positive for COVID to continue working.

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