The country’s largest union of registered nurses is not happy with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Nurses United has condemned the CDC for its new guidance that says vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks in most settings and has called for a reversal. “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,” National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a statement. “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.”
In addition to hurting nurses and other frontline workers, the new guidance will also disproportionately affect people of color, the union said. “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. The impact of the CDC’s guidance update will be felt disproportionately by workers of color and their families and communities,” NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said.
Although vaccination is important, it is hardly the only thing necessary to control the spread of COVID-19. “This is a huge blow to our efforts at confronting this virus and the pandemic,” Castillo said. “The mask is another lifesaving layer of protection for workers.” Jean Ross, who is also a president of NNU said that “if the CDC had fully recognized the science on how this deadly virus is transmitted, this new guidance would never have been issued.” The union, which represents some 170,000 nurses across the United States, pointed out that more than 35,000 new COVID-19 infections are detected daily, more than 600 people die every day from the virus, and there is increasing concern about variants “that are more transmissible, deadlier, and may already be or may become vaccine resistant.”
The union also criticized the CDC for other things, including its decision to stop tallying infections among those who have been vaccinated unless they result in hospitalization or death. That information is necessary “to understand whether vaccines prevent asymptomatic/mild infections, how long vaccine protection may last, and to understand how variants impact vaccine protection,” the union said.
The criticism from the union comes shortly after the CDC on Thursday surprised Americans with new recommendations saying that vaccinated people could go maskless in most settings. It based its recommendation on studies that found few vaccinated people become infected and the vaccines appear to be effective against all variants that are present in the United States. The CDC said the new recommendations don’t apply to health care facilities, public transportation, and other types of facilities, including homeless shelters and prisons. On Saturday, the CDC said schools should still universally require masks through the end of the school year. All schools teaching students from kindergarten through grade 12 “should implement and layer prevention strategies and should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing,” the CDC said.