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Shaheen Calls on Administration to Prioritize COVID-19 Testing for Patients Who Have Potentially Exposed First Responders to Avoid Lengthy Quarantines For Vital Frontline Workers

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield to reevaluate CDC guidelines to prioritize “source patients” who have symptoms of COVID-19 and come into contact with first responders.

If a first responder is not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and comes into contact with one of these source patients that have symptoms of COVID-19, the first responder is required to self-quarantine until either: (A) the source patient’s testing for COVID-19 comes back negative, or (B) 14 days have passed since the contact with the source patient, whichever is sooner. Currently, it takes between 3 and 7 days, if not longer, to get a source patient’s lab results back—which means that first responders are waiting in self-quarantine that entire time, even if the patient’s labs ultimately come back negative for COVID-19. In her letter, Shaheen underscored that if these source patients could be tested sooner and have their lab results processed more quickly, first responders would not have to self-quarantine for as long.

Shaheen wrote, “First responders in New Hampshire and across the country are absolutely critical to our response to the novel coronavirus or “COVID-19.” These brave emergency medical technicians, firefighters, police officers and other staff must continue to perform their essential duties in the community. However, if they are not able to be on duty due to delays in determining whether someone who they came into contact with has COVID-19, our ability to respond to this pandemic will be limited.”

Shaheen went on to urge the administration to investigate whether there are circumstances where it would be clinically appropriate to expedite testing for source patients who have come into contact with first responders, so that first responders can return to their vital duties sooner if a source patient tests negative for COVID-19. She closed her letter by calling on the administration to publicly promote changes to guidelines that would prioritize this testing procedure so that states like New Hampshire and other local agencies are aware of the changes.

The letter can be read in full here.

Shaheen has fought for and voted in favor of three economic response bills to provide financial relief to states in their response efforts, to support workers, businesses and families impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, and new legislation to provide immediate financial relief to those affected by the pandemic. The President signed all three bills into law. The first economic package led to New Hampshire receiving an initial $4.9 million in funds from the CDC. Shaheen was a lead negotiator on the third economic response bill, where she worked around the clock with Senators Rubio (R-FL), Cardin (D-MD) and Collins (R-ME) on provisions to assist small businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis.