The largest labor union representing nurses in the United States, National Nurses United (NNU), has blasted the CDC for its new recommendation to loosen mask constraints, saying that the decision "threatens the lives of patients, nurses and other frontline workers."
"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," registered nurse and NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a statement released on Friday. "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."
The CDC head, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said the day prior that those who are fully vaccinated "can participate in indoor and outdoor activities," both large and small, without donning face coverings or distancing themselves. The CDC director claimed the guidelines were updated based on an "evolved science."
"CDC issued this new guidance even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard mandated by President Biden’s January 21 executive order has been delayed for two months. This lack of protection compounds the dangers that nurses and other essential workers continue to face on the job,” Castillo continued.
But the union fired back, saying the CDC needs "to fully recognize aerosol transmission and update its COVID-19 guidance accordingly to prioritize measures that prevent and reduce aerosol transmission." Previous guidance issued early in the pandemic said larger droplets in the air were the primary method of transmission, which is why many of the safety measures, including social distancing and mask-wearing, were judged effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“If the CDC had fully recognized the science on how this deadly virus is transmitted, this new guidance would never have been issued,” said NNU President Jean Ross, RN.
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio both reportedly quickly dismissed the idea, refusing to follow the revised advice, at least for the time being, further confusing people who are still trying to find out what they should be doing to stay healthy.
Walensky, however, reaffirmed the validity of the decision and claimed that the measure was not politically motivated.
"[Vaccines] are effective. They are working in the population just as they did in the clinical trials,” she said.
Meanwhile, the nurses' union took issue with the CDC's announcement that it would stop monitoring people who are completely vaccinated but still have COVID-19 unless they end up in a hospital or morgue.
“This means that the CDC is no longer tracking data 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's statement read.
According to its website, National Nurses United represents more than 170,000 members across the country.