The largest union of registered nurses in the US, led by a Filipino-American, slammed on Sunday the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent advisory that that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places.
In a statement, the National Nurses Union said the 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”.
“The CDC issued this new guidance even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard mandated by President Biden’s Jan. 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,” NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo said.
Filipino-American Zenei Cortez, the current NNU president, warned "more unnecessary, preventable infections and deaths among nurses and other frontline workers" will occur if the OSHA does not issue a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS).
“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," she said.
“If the CDC had fully recognized the science on how this deadly virus is transmitted, this new guidance would never have been issued," NNU' Jean Ross also added.
The union called on the OSHA to issue the ETS on infectious diseases “without delay.”
Earlier, the CDC said the recently released guidance will prod more Americans to get vaccinated.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky defended the easing of guidance just two weeks after its most recent update, citing a sharp reduction in cases, expansion of vaccines to younger people and vaccine efficacy against coronavirus variants.
"We followed the science here," Walensky said adding, "a coalescence of more science that has emerged just in the last week."
The CDC had faced criticism, even from public health officials, that it has been too cautious in its guidance. Critics have said people need to see more benefit of getting vaccinated in terms of returning to normal activities.
Masks became a political issue in the US with then-President Donald Trump resisting mandating masks, while President Joe Biden embraced masks and mandated them for transit hubs and recommended them for other public places.
—With reports from TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN North American News Bureau and Reuters