NY cuts COVID quarantine period for essential workers

New York State will be cutting down its 10-day COVID-19 quarantine period for "critical workers," Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Christmas Eve.

Essential workers who test positive for COVID-19, but are fully vaccinated, can now return to work in 5 days, as long as they’re asymptomatic, have no fever for 72 hours and wear a mask.

Included on this list are teachers, nursing home, grocery store, and health care workers.

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This announcement mirrors recent guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which said Thursday that health care workers can return to work after 5 days of testing positive for COVID if there are severe staffing shortages.

"This is a new announcement from the CDC," Governor Hochul said on Friday. "We really wanted to translate that into the New York State workforce and the people all over the state, mainly focused on making sure that we can get people back to work so these critical services that New Yorkers need, health care, transportation, grocery stores and all the things that we’ve identified, that they can get back to work as soon as it is safe."

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New York’s largest nurse’s union however blasted the state’s new guidelines, saying it will only worsen the current staffing shortage and put patients’ lives at risk.

"This guidance is inconsistent with proven science, vague, and doesn't provide definitions or explain standards at a time when decision-making for healthcare systems is critical," Pat Kane, Executive Director of the New York State Nurses Association said. "Healthcare worker infection rates are not being tracked and there's no substantial evidence behind the CDC changing this guidance. But there is a healthcare staffing crisis the CDC cited as the justification for it."

Republican lawmakers took to Twitter to also criticize the recent announcement, saying if it is safe for essential workers to return to work after a 5 day COVID quarantine period, it is safe for everyone.

"Phew, so if you work in one of those Targets that has a frozen food and granola bar section – 5 days," New York City Councilman Joe Borelli wrote on Twitter. "Work at the other ones – 10 days, it’s just not safe. Together we can stop the spread. #science"

"We really doing this again," Duchess County Executive Marc Molinaro questioned on Twitter. "Every job is essential."

Governor Hochul did not take any questions during her Christmas Eve press conference but emphasized the need to keep critical services operational.

"We need you again, we need you to be able to go to work," Governor Hochul said.

New York set a new daily record on Friday, with 44,431 new COVID cases recorded in the last 24 hours. However, there have been far fewer hospitalizations and deaths than there were during the height of the pandemic in March 2020 or even during last year’s winter surge.