One group of healthcare workers who have been uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic—nurses—want the CDC to reverse its recent no-mask policy for fully vaccinated people. While the CDC’s May 13 declaration was regarded by some as a step toward normalcy and providing incentive for those who aren’t yet vaccinated, the statement made the next day by the National Nurses’ Union positioned it as premature.
According to the National Nurses Union website, the organization specifically condemns the CDC “stating that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks, avoid crowds, or large gatherings, and no longer needed to isolate after exposure or get tested unless they develop symptoms,” expressing particular consternation that the announcement came on International Nurses Day.
“This newest CDC guidance is not based on science, does not protect public health, and threatens the lives of patients, nurses, and other frontline workers across the country,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo. “Now is not the time to relax protective measures, and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.”
The statement pointed out that new daily COVID-19 cases are still north of 30,000, though current daily averages are about half of what they were on April 1, according to data compiled by the New York Times. Close to 40% of the nation’s population is now fully vaccinated.
Among the union’s criticisms were that the new CDC mask policy will disproportionately harm BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) Americans.
“There has been so much inequity in the vaccine rollout and racial inequity in who is a frontline worker put most at risk by this guidance,” said NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez. “The impact of the CDC’s guidance update will be felt disproportionately by workers of color and their families and communities.”
Another union representative with the title of president, Jean Ross, doubled down on the concerns in a May 17 interview on CNN.
“We have questions right now from our patients, from our families, from their families, from friends, and I can see why it’s confusing,” she said. “We have spent so long trying to redevelop the trust that people have with their government entities about what’s right and what’s not right.”
The confusion is coming in part from the CDC’s exceptions to the new mask guidance, stating that people should still wear them in hospitals and nursing homes.
“Nurses aren’t just concerned about nurses,” Ross asserted. “Nurses are concerned about the public’s health. That’s what we’re looking at, the public’s health.”
The move among a number of high-profile national retailers, including big-box stores like Costco, relaxing mask requirements is also concerning to union representatives.
Castillo, quoted by the New York Times, observed, “This is a huge blow to our efforts at confronting this virus and the pandemic. The mask is another lifesaving layer of protection for workers.”
Read more on coronavirus face coverings:
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- Even after the pandemic is over, Fauci says we still might need masks
- How are all these disposable face masks impacting the environment?
- Not all masks are effective against COVID-19: Here’s a ranking of how safe they are
- How face masks are affecting the deaf and hard of hearing community
- What’s the difference between an N95, an N99, and a R95 face mask?