NNU urges CDC to reinstate universal mask-wearing


| Photo via National Nurses United

NEW YORK – As the delta COVID-19 variant, first detected in India, is finding its way across the US, the National Nurses United (NNU) has urged US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, to reinstate the agency’s recommendation on wearing of masks in public, regardless of vaccination status. NNU said this helps “reduce the spread of the virus, especially from infected individuals who do not have any symptoms. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease, spreads easily from person to person via aerosol transmission when an infected person breathes, speaks, coughs, or sneezes. Asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infected individuals can spread infectious SARS-CoV-2 aerosols during breathing and speaking, without coughing or other respiratory symptoms.”

In its July 12 letter, NNU said that their “suggestions are “based on science and the precautionary principle and are made to protect nurses, other essential workers, patients, and the public from COVID-19.”

“It should come as no surprise that cases are rising following the rapid reopening of many states and the removal of public health measures, including the CDC’s May 13 guidance update that told vaccinated individuals they no longer needed to wear masks, observe physical distancing, avoid crowds, or get tested or isolate after an exposure, within only a few exceptions,” the letter said. “The CDC’s guidance failed to account for the possibility — which preliminary data from the United Kingdom and Israel now indicates is likely — of infection transmission of the virus, especially variants of concern, by fully vaccinated individuals.

According to a CDC Data Tracker Weekly Review, July 9, 2021 (accessed July 12), the US had a 16.0 increase in daily new cases over the previous week. NNU also cited a New York Times report, “Coronavirus in the US: Latest Map and Case Counts,” updated July 12, that shows “more than 40 states have seen an increase in daily new cases over the previous two weeks, and more than 25 states have seen an increased in hositalizations.”

The union also urged the CDC to:

  • Update guidance to fully recognize aerosol transmission.
  • Track all COVID-19 infections among healthcare workers and other essential workers.
  • Track all breakthrough infections, or cases that occur among fully vaccinated people, including mild and asymptomatic infections. Currently, the CDC only monitors breakthrough cases that lead to hospitalization or death.

To read the full letter, click here.

“The pandemic is not over, and the United States once again stands on the precipice of rising cases. Nurses and health care workers stand ready to care for the sickest patients and to be a crucial part of the pandemic response, ” NNU said. “But our members need safe workplaces in order to ensure the safety of their patients and communities.”

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