LOS ANGELES — Keeping her patients safe and healthy is a priority for Dr. Ileana Meza, a nurse practitioner who’s been working at LAC-USC Medical Center since 1995.
But Meza is struggling to make sense of new temporary COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidelines for health care workers.
Meza said they're "dangerous and misguided and it goes against the science," talking about new temporary guidelines from the California Department of Public Health. The guidelines allow health care personnel who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic to return to work immediately without isolation and testing.
“So they’re saying, if you don’t have symptoms, meaning if you’re not sick, but just the fact that you are COVID positive, you’re sick, the pathogen is in you and whether you have symptoms or not, you can still spread it,” she said.
Meza was among health care workers speaking out this week against the guidelines and asking the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to step in, cancel non-critical health care procedures, and test and isolate workers exposed to COVID-19.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the LA Department of Health Services said:
“LA County Department of Health Services is reviewing the proposed guidelines but has not adopted or issued an official policy containing these specific changes for health care workers at LA Health Services.”
Dr. Michael T. Osterholm is with the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. In an interview on Spectrum News 1's “Your Morning,” he said he strongly supports the new temporary guideline.
“We’re in dire straits right now. We’re in difficult times. This is not business as usual. Right now, if we can, we need to get as many health care workers able to be in a work setting there and the reason for that is we don’t have enough health care workers,” said Osterholm.
Meza worries if the county does adopt these measures it will force staff to go back to work before it’s safe.
“It’s not fair, I mean imagine if you take your mother just to have her regular check and she comes back with COVID and dies of COVID, that’s not right,” she said.
While she knows the health care system is facing critical shortages, Meza says putting staff or patients in harm's way is not worth the risk.