National Nurses United statement on today’s Trump administration press conference
The following statement by National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN and Presidents Jean Ross, RN, Zenei Cortez, RN and Deborah Burger, RN is in response to the Trump administration’s COVID-19 press conference this afternoon:
“At a press conference today, President Trump declared a national emergency and announced that Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar will now have broad new powers to “immediately waive revisions of applicable laws and regulations to give doctors, all hospitals and healthcare providers, maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.” Trump also announced a new partnership between the government and corporations, including commercial labs Roche and Thermo Fisher to make the COVID-19 test; Google to market the test; and Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and Target to administer the test to patients.
While launching this windfall for corporations, what the Trump administration did not mention was that the best way for health care workers to respond to COVID-19 is to ensure that they have the protections they need—which they currently do not.
This week, nurses were outraged that the federal Centers for Disease Control weakened its guidance on health care worker protections. These changes include, among other things, rolling back personal protective equipment (PPE) standards from N-95 respirators to allow simple surgical masks; not requiring suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients to be placed in negative pressure isolation rooms at all times; and weakening protections for health care workers collecting diagnostic respiratory specimens. These are moves that National Nurses United nurses say will gravely endanger nurses, health care workers, patients, and our communities.
National Nurses United urges Congress to quickly pass new legislation to address the inadequacies in the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic. Specifically, we urge Congress to mandate that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19 protections for health care workers. An OSHA emergency temporary standard is a critical step in ensuring that all nurses on the frontlines of the coronavirus response are given the proper respirators and personal protective equipment to safely care for patients with confirmed or potential COVID-19 infection.
We also urge Congress to reduce the barriers to care that patients with potential COVID-19 infection may face, and to provide federal funding to ensure that all testing, treatment and care related to the coronavirus outbreak is provided free of charge to every patient who needs it. Nurses will stand up and speak out until the response to this outbreak is based on frontline worker and patient need, and on science—not on corporate profit.”