Oklahoma Healthcare Facilities React To New Guidance On Asymptomatic COVID-19 Positive Workers

Friday, November 20th 2020, 6:29 pm

QUINTON, Okla. -

New guidance released by the state health department said hospitals and nursing homes can allow employees who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic to work, but only as a last resort. 

Darren Tidwell, owner of Quinton Manor Nursing Home, said he is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.  

Tidwell said the facility currently has six staff members out with COVID-19 and said none of them have symptoms. While he welcomes the new guidance from the state, he said he likely will not have asymptomatic employees working.

"We actually petitioned to allow our asymptomatic employees to work and take care of the COVID patients,” Tidwell said.  

New guidance from the state said while there is a trend in other states to allow asymptomatic staff who have tested positive to continue to work in hospitals and nursing homes, the Oklahoma State Department of Health is encouraging this only happen as a last resort.  

"The rest of the staff has stepped up and are working 16 hour shifts in some cases,” Tidwell said.  

Tidwell said he appreciates the guidance is there if he ever needs to bring asymptomatic staff back to work. However, he said it is not necessary right now. He said employees testing negative will keep working extra hours, while caring for 10 residents who tested positive for COVID-19. 

Lisa Spearman said her brother is one of the residents. 

"I think he's lost weight. He's weak,” she said.  

She is in quarantine because she recently saw him for a doctor's visit. Spearman said while staff are stretched working extra hours, she knows they are doing the best they can. 

She has faith her brother James Carter, who goes by "Jimmy" will get through his fight with COVID-19. 

"He's very resilient and I'm thankful for that,” Spearman said.  

St. Francis, Hillcrest and OSU Medical Center said their facilities are not allowing asymptomatic positive employees to work right now. Ascension St. John did not respond to our request for comment.  

Diakonos Group, a long-term care provider with several nursing and rehabilitation facilities in Oklahoma, released the following statement about the guidance. 

“Being able to work asymptomatic [COVID positive] staff is a logical and safe move, but only if they work in a closed [COVID positive] unit. We appreciate OSDH allowing this safe and logical alternative to providers who need this flexibility. This is already allowed in a number of other states.”