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Outbreak reported at Rhode Island hospital after Covid-positive, asymptomatic staff asked to work

Outbreak reported at Rhode Island hospital after Covid-positive, asymptomatic staff asked to work

A Rhode Island hospital is dealing with a Covid-19 outbreak with patients after it asked staff who had tested positive, but were asymptomatic, to come in due to a staffing shortage.

Eleanor Slater Hospital, a state-run facility with campuses in Cranston and Burrillville, reported it had 28 infected patients as of Thursday, according to the Boston Globe. The hospital has roughly 200 patients.

On Saturday, the hospital had two Covid-positive staff members come into work and three on Monday, according to a memo posted on the official Rhode Island state website.

“The decision to utilize covid-positive staff who are asymptomatic is consistent with CDC guidance that allows hospitals facing significant staffing challenges to utilize asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic workers,” the memo reads.

The infected staff worked with Covid-positive patients, with one exception, according to the state’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

“In the one instance, an asymptomatic staff member did work with patients who did not have COVID, but there have been no COVID positive cases reported in the area where this work took place,” said spokesperson Randal Edgar.

Edgar said the outbreak at the hospital is not connected to the asymptomatic staff members.

Joseph Wendelken, with the state’s Department of Health, told the Boston Globe that the infected staff remained masked.

Wendelken said the hospital did not use any Covid-positive workers on Monday.

The wife of a man hospitalized with ALS at the Cranston location told the Boston Globe that she was concerned about “potential serious consequences” of Covid-positive staff being around at-risk patients.

“This is not a reassuring plan while administration leadership at Slater Hospital is under serious scrutiny and in flux,” Mary Sicco said.

The Respiratory and Rehabilitation Center of Rhode Island said it was also affected by a staff shortage after a number of employees called out sick after testing positive for the virus. All staff at the center are vaccinated.

The rehab center said because it was short-staffed, one asymptomatic employee was asked to provide care on the Covid unit.

“A number of staff members were out with COVID but have since recovered and returned to work. The facility is no longer using COVID+ staff,” spokesperson Lori Mayer said.

Minyvonne Burke is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.

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