Nurses want CDC to recommend everyone wear masks again


RNurse Kristina Shannon, from left, chaplain Andrea Cammarota, and Emergency Room charge nurse Cathy Carter watch as medical workers try to resuscitate a patient who tested positive for coronavirus in the emergency room at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. Hospitals across California have all but run out of intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients, ambulances are backing up outside emergency rooms, and tents for treating the sick are going up as the nation’s most populous state emerges as the latest epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

(WTVO) — The United States’ largest labor union and association for registered nurses is calling for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue mask mandates as the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads.

National Nurses United addressed a public letter to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Monday, asking for the recommendation that everyone wear masks regardless of their vaccination status.

The letter said this plea is supported by scientific evidence, saying the CDC’s May 13 update that vaccinated individuals do not need to follow most COVID-19 guidelines did not account for “variants of concern.”

“Our suggestions are based on science and the precautionary principle and are made in order to protect nurses, other essential workers, patients and the public from COVID-19,” NNU said in the letter.

NNU made masking and COVID-tracing requests of the CDC, including:

  • Reinstate the recommendation that everyone wear masks in public or when around people outside of their own household, regardless of vaccination status
  • Update infection control and other COVID-19 guidance to recognize potential transmission through aerosols
  • Require health care workers and other essential workers to track and report their COVID-19 infections
  • Track all infections across fully vaccinated people

NNU also said in the letter that while health care workers are prepared to care for those infected with COVID-19, they need communities’ help.

“Our members need safe workplaces in order to ensure the safety of their patients and communities,” NNU said.

NNU co-president Deborah Burger, a registered nurse from Santa Monica, Calif., told Yahoo Life that universal masking is still needed to preemptively protect the public.

“Nurses have a science-based practice, but we also practice the precautionary principle, which means that you do not wait for scientific proof of harm before taking action to protect people’s health,” Burger said.

Some infectious disease experts have mixed opinions on the union’s request. Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Yahoo Life it doesn’t account for evidence about vaccines and the Delta variant.

“What would be much more useful from the union would be an embracing of mandatory vaccination for all health care workers as a condition of employment,” Adalja said.

Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, said that the union’s request is a “good idea” while the pandemic is ongoing.

“[Universal masking] should be done in states where the vaccination rate is under 50 percent,” Watkins said.

Burger also said while NNU wants the pandemic to be “over,” she “hopes” the CDC seriously considers the union’s request.

“We know that ignoring data on rising cases and failing to implement precautions will cost our most vulnerable patients their lives,” Burger said.

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