Channel 1 Los Angeles
Registered nurses are outraged to learn that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday further weakened its guidance on measures to contain COVID-19. These changes include, among other things, rolling back personal protective equipment (PPE) standards from N-95 respirators to allow simple surgical masks; not requiring suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients to be placed in negative pressure isolation rooms at all times; and weakening protections for health care workers collecting diagnostic respiratory specimens. These are moves that National Nurses United nurses say will gravely endanger nurses, health care workers, patients, and our communities.
To protest the ineffective employer and government response to COVID-19 and demand protections now, nurses will be holding a national day of action on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, said the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) and National Nurses United. Nurses are fighting back collectively by holding rallies, press conferences, and solidarity actions across the country to demand optimal screening and isolation procedures and policies, staffing, PPE, training and education, and more.
“If nurses and health care workers aren’t protected, that means patients and the public are not protected,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN and CNA/NNOC and NNU executive director. “This is a major public health crisis of unknown proportions. Now is not the time to be weakening our standards and protections, or cutting corners. Now is the time we should be stepping up our efforts.”
CNA/NNOC and NNU note that some states, such as California, can maintain a higher standard of infectious disease protections for workers. In California, nurses and health care workers are protected by Cal-OSHA’s aerosol transmissible diseases standard, and Castillo said it is critical that the state hold the line on public health by vigorously enforcing those rules.
In addition to lobbying almost every federal health agency, the presidential administration, and members of Congress, and California health agencies to step up protections, NNU recently surveyed RNs nationwide, finding that the vast majority of the nation’s health care facilities are unprepared for COVID-19, with only 29 percent of nurses reporting that their hospitals have a plan in place to isolate a coronavirus patient, and only 30 percent saying their employer has enough personal protective equipment if there is a rapid surge in patients with possible COVID-19 infections.
Many hospitals and healthcare facilities have failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment to nurses working with COVID-19 patients. Some facilities are telling nurses to continue to work while asymptomatic, even though they’ve been exposed to the virus and might be contagious. Testing at hospitals has been sporadic.