Aug 6, 2020 - Health

Nurses rally nationwide to demand protection amid pandemic

Healthcare workers on their way to work walk past demonstrators who are taking part in a national day of action to save lives during COVID-19 on August 05, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Healthcare workers on their way to work walk past demonstrators taking part in a national day of action in Miami on Wednesday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Nurses took more than 200 active demonstrations inside and outside U.S. hospital facilities in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday to demand full personal protective equipment and federal government action.

Driving the news: National Nurses United (NNU) members are demanding that the Senate pass the HEROES Act, House Democrats' $3 trillion pandemic recovery package, which they said would protect health care workers by ensuring domestic production of PPE through the Defense Production Act.

  • They argue it would mandate that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration establish an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases and provide "desperately needed economic help in the form of cash payments, extended unemployment benefits, and daycare subsidies through the end of 2020 to families on the brink," per an NNU statement.
  • A union spokesperson told Axios that while the nurses did not hold an official strike, they did walk out during their shifts as part of the protests.

Why it matters, via Axios' Bob Herman: Health care workers need this equipment to protect themselves and to avoid spreading infection. Supplies are already stretched thin, and will likely get thinner as the coronavirus and flu season converge in the fall.

What they're saying: Intensive care unit registered nurse Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association whose members took part in the protests, said in a statement that nurses were at risk during the pandemic.

  • "We still reuse PPE that was meant to be discarded. We still care for COVID-19 patients and non-COVID patients at the same time," Turner said.
  • "And we still struggle to protect ourselves so we can protect our patients."

Go deeper: Nurses place shoes at Capitol to honor colleagues killed by coronavirus

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