Nurse Union Condemns New CDC Mask Guidance

Liz Carey

National Nurses United, the largest nurse’s union in America, condemned new mask guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently.

The new guidelines, issued May 13, return most activities to normal for those who have been vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC said on its web site.

But according to the NNU, the new guidance puts nurses and other frontline workers at risk.

“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, RN. “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.”

And, the union said, the new guidance flies in the face of OSHA guidelines.

“CDC issued this new guidance even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) emergency temporary standard mandated by President Biden’s Jan. 21 executive order has been delayed for two months. This lack of protection compounds the dangers that nurses and other essential workers continue to face on the job,” Castillo said.

The union said the fact that the U.S. continues to see new coronavirus infections top 35,000 daily, and that there are still many unanswered questions about how long the vaccine’s protection will last are also reasons why they oppose the new guidelines.

Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, and president of the California Nurses Association (CNA), told the San Francisco Chronicle the CNA was urging California officials not to follow the new CDC guidance, calling the rollback a “big blow to the safety and welfare of our nurses, front line workers, as well as the patients.

“We have to understand that the pandemic is not over,” said Triunfo-Cortez. “There continues to be high rates of infection and people continue to die, even nurses.”

Rochelle Walensky, MD, CDC director, said when she announced the new guidance that the decision was based on numerous reports on the effectiveness of the vaccine and referenced six studies that supported the agency’s new guidelines.

In a May 16 interview with NBC, Walensky said the new guidance was not a call for everyone to drop their masks.

“This was not permission to shed masks for everybody everywhere,” she said. “This was really science-driven individual assessment of your risk.”

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