Registered Nurses will be holding a protest in front of the White House on Tuesday, April 21 to call attention to the tens of thousands of health care workers nationwide who have become infected with COVID-19 due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). The nurses, members of National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of RNs in the country, will be practicing social distancing and will read aloud the names U.S. nurses who are known to have died of COVID-19.
Nurses have been demanding that the Trump administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) promulgate an emergency temporary standard so that health care workers are provided with the optimal PPE. NNU petitioned OSHA on March 4, 2020 for such a standard and never received a response. With no federal health and safety standard, nurses and other health care workers in many hospitals across the country have not been provided with adequate PPE to protect them from exposure to the virus.
Nurses point out that they require N95 respirators or a higher level or protection as well as other protective gear when taking care of patients who may be infected with COVID-19. With the failure of the Trump administration to protect health care workers, NNU is demanding that Congress include a mandatory OSHA emergency standard in its next COVID-19 legislative package.
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The nurses are also demanding that President Trump use his authority under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to order the mass production of PPE, including N95 respirators, face shields, gowns, gloves and shoe coverings, as well as ventilators and COVID-19 testing kits. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department estimates the country will need 3.5 billion N95 respirators to be used throughout the pandemic. NNU is calling on Congress to mandate the DPA’s use to produce the equipment and supplies health care workers need to care for COVID-19 patients as well as to conduct mass testing that is required to control the spread of the virus.