Emergency guidance for critical staffing challenges

Hospitals across Northeast Ohio are under immense pressure due to COVID-19. We have postponed nonessential cases, exhausted staffing resources and redeployed caregivers to areas with the greatest need.

Despite these mitigation efforts, a great number of caregivers, including fully vaccinated caregivers who have experienced breakthrough infections, are out of work as the omicron variant sweeps through our communities. These critical staffing challenges threaten our ability to safely meet the needs of our patients, some of whom are also our fellow caregivers.

As a result, the region’s largest healthcare providers are changing their return to work policies for caregivers who have COVID-19. Cleveland Clinic will be implementing the guidance outlined below, consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emergency guidance on mitigating staffing shortages and isolation and quarantine.

  • Caregivers who test positive for COVID-19 will be asked to return to work after five (5) days if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms with no fever.
    • These caregivers must have already been vaccinated or had COVID-19 in the past six months.
    • A negative test is not needed to return to work.
    • Upon return to work, the caregiver will continue to wear a well-fitting ear loop procedure mask as source control or an N95 mask for COVID patient care.
    • The caregiver’s assignment may be changed to protect patients who are immunocompromised.
  • This guidance is temporary and only applies to locations identified by need as we navigate the emergency situation.
  • This guidance will also apply to contractors who are essential to our operations. Those contractors will receive further direction from their Cleveland Clinic representatives.
  • Refer to our FAQs on this guidance.

Caregivers who have been exposed to persons with COVID-19 but are asymptomatic will continue to work, regardless of vaccine status, and will be required to wear a well-fitting surgical mask or an N95 and continue to follow all safety protocols.

In addition, Cleveland Clinic’s policy on the use of required time away (RqTA) is being amended as follows:

  • The RqTA pay code may be applied for scheduled and missed shifts up to 5 consecutive calendar days following a positive COVID-19 test, beginning at the date of the onset of symptoms.
  • Caregivers who remain symptomatic after 5 days will use PTO and/or other available leaves for additional absences.
  • This update to RqTA applies to all Cleveland Clinic U.S. locations.

We are also asking caregivers to continue following safe behaviors: vaccination, handwashing, masking and physical distancing, which includes limited use of break rooms, cafeterias and other gathering places.

Our goal during this pandemic is to provide the safest possible environment for patients and caregivers. Right now, we need everyone’s help, teamwork and understanding to get through the most severe challenge we have faced.

Thank you for your exceptional care and dedication.