Leaders of several local and national unions issued a joint state­ment following the expected guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Preven­tion that will weaken protec­tions for health­care workers on the front­lines of fighting the coron­avirus outbreak.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: #

Nursing profes­sionals, techs, respi­ra­tory thera­pists and the other workers supporting patient care are at ground zero of this public health crisis, and their voices must be a key part of devel­oping a national plan to address coron­avirus. Failing to provide adequate protec­tion to health­care workers increases the risk that they will spread the infec­tion, and failing to protect them weakens our response. 
Unfor­tu­nately, both the CDC and the Occupa­tional Safety and Health Admin­is­tra­tion have done little thus far to engage with workers, and to make sure they’re clear on the proto­cols for respi­ra­tory protec­tion and exposure to infec­tious disease. That, coupled with these rollbacks, is a troubling sign of our government’s ability to manage this threat to our communities.”

Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry said: #

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has left health­care workers in the dark by spreading misin­for­ma­tion, delaying the release of guide­lines and best practices devel­oped by public health experts, and is putting the health of the stock market above the health of people.
Nurses, lab techs, environ­mental service workers, dietary aides, caregivers and doctors in our hospi­tals, nursing homes and commu­ni­ties are in direct contact with patients, meaning these workers are at high risk of contracting or spreading illnesses. In the face of a health emergency, it is more impor­tant than ever to ensure these workers are prepared with the right equip­ment and ready to take action — not left wondering how to keep themselves, their patients and their families healthy.
Further­more, everyone on the front­lines of care — from hospital workers to home care workers — must have afford­able health­care and paid sick time they can count on. No one should have to go to work sick because they are worried about being penal­ized or missing a day’s pay; and no one should have to postpone or forgo treat­ment because they can’t afford the bill.
The Trump admin­is­tra­tion, the CDC and OSHA must put worker and patient safety — not cost reduc­tion —first. As the largest union of health­care workers, SEIU will continue to push the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to improve its response. This situa­tion shows the power that working people have when we join together in unions, and it is a good example of why every worker should have the oppor­tu­nity to join a union — no matter where they work.”

SEIU 1199 Executive Vice President Jane Hopkins, RN, said: #

When nurses and caregivers are told they don’t have to wear proper respi­ra­tory protec­tion, or that paper masks are good enough — whether that message comes from the CDC or the hospi­tals— it is a message that is damaging to the health and safety of our caregivers and our commu­ni­ties. Caregivers at the bedside know that N95 or better respi­ra­tory protec­tion is essen­tial for their safety as workers at risk of repeated exposure to the novel coronavirus.
As front­line caregivers, we are the experts in keeping ourselves and our patients safe. Not providing adequate protec­tions for health­care workers not only puts caregivers at risk but puts patients at risk as well. We are calling on the CDC to make the safety of health­care workers, and thus our patients, the first priority by creating and commu­ni­cating clear guidance to hospi­tals on ensuring the highest possible standard of respi­ra­tory protec­tion for health­care workers.
The CDC and other public health agencies must consult with health­care workers when setting these standards for respi­ra­tory protec­tion during this public health crisis. We under­stand the threat we are facing, and we know what we need to provide the best care possible to our patients. Anything less than N95 respi­ra­tors is not good enough.” 

Washington State Nurses Association Executive Director Sally Watkins, who is based at the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., said: #

Nurses, doctors and other health­care workers stand ready to respond to this crisis, but they should not have to sacri­fice their own health, or risk infecting their loved ones. Front­line workers need assur­ance from the federal govern­ment that they’ll be protected. In Washington state, we have heard from nurses that they don’t feel they have the personal protec­tive equip­ment (PPE) they need, are not getting adequate real-time training, and don’t feel prepared.
Lowering the standards for protec­tive gear will weaken the ability of nurses and other front­line caregivers to safely care for their patients in this public health emergency. N95 respi­ra­tors are the neces­sary and minimum protec­tion for our nurses and health­care workers.
We are calling on the CDC to proac­tively and effec­tively target the supply of respi­ra­tors and use other controls to reduce the risk of infec­tion in health­care workers, knowing that our profes­sionals are at the highest risk of infec­tion. The federal govern­ment should do all in its power to increase the supply of N95 respi­ra­tors and other PPE, which includes releasing the national stock­pile and targeting supplies to areas where the outbreak has already occurred; incen­tivizing U.S.-based compa­nies to produce more N95s; and promoting the use of powered air-purifying respi­ra­tors (PAPRs) in health­care settings. Health­care profes­sionals also need training in real time on how to properly use the respi­ra­tors, with oppor­tu­ni­ties to practice and to ask questions.
The CDC should also immedi­ately do more to promote other key controls, such as isola­tion proto­cols, adequate nurse staffing, delaying unnec­es­sary proce­dures, utilizing telemed­i­cine and improving air venti­la­tion to reduce the presence of viral parti­cles in the air. This crisis requires vigilance from all of us — and it requires that we protect the nurses, doctors and other health­care workers who are fighting to save lives and stem the spread of disease.”

UFCW International President Marc Perrone said: #

Health­care workers repre­sented by UFCW across the country are bravely stepping up to help so many commu­ni­ties confronting the coron­avirus. Keeping our patients and families safe starts with strong leader­ship. UFCW’s 1.3 million members and workers across the country are calling on the CDC and both parties — Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats — to work together to take the bold steps needed to strengthen the government’s response to this crisis before it’s too late.”

UFCW 21 President Faye Guenther in Seattle said: #

Our members are displaying extra­or­di­nary courage and dedica­tion at the front­lines of this outbreak in Washington state, and both the safety of our commu­nity and the integrity of our health­care system depend on their ability to do their work safely, By caring for patients with COVID-19, health­care workers are putting themselves at higher risk, and they deserve the highest level of protection.”
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