Press Release

NNOC/NNU demands state governors, employers give nurses housing, child care, other protections

nurses holding signs

The National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) recently sent letters to governors of 18 states, as well as to hospital employers, demanding that nurses not only have the protective equipment they need to care for positive or suspected COVID-19 patients, but also that the states and employers provide nurses with housing, child care, workers’ compensation, and other protections.

“For months, NNOC/NNU has been demanding RNs and other health care workers have optimal personal protective equipment (PPE). But because employers, and federal, state, and local governments have often failed to implement sufficiently protective standards—leaving nurses prone to being exposed to COVID-19—we are also demanding that nurses are supported in protecting their families,” said NNOC/NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN.

“NNOC/NNU has heard too many reports of nurses sleeping in their cars or garages to protect their families from potential infection, and far too many reports of nurses being told to use their sick or vacation time to cover precautionary leave after being exposed,” Castillo continued. “This is outrageous and morally wrong, and we call on the states and hospitals to immediately address our demands for better protections.”

The 18 states contacted by NNOC/NNU are states where NNOC/NNU affiliates represent nurses. The letters were addressed to the governors of Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, West Virginia, as well as the mayor of Washington, D.C.

NNOC/NNU demands that states should:

  • Provide housing for any nurse who cares for a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 or cares for a patient under investigation for COVID-19, at the state's expense, for the duration of the positive or suspected patients’ stay and for at least 14 days following the departures of any positive or suspected COVID-19 patients.
  • Provide child care to ensure that all nurses may report to work for their regularly scheduled shifts. Because schools, day care centers, and elder care centers may be closed for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, NNOC/NNU asks that the state make arrangements to provide paid child and elder care for nurses and other health care workers.
  • Accommodate high risk nurses. NNOC/NNU calls on the state to insist that all hospitals accommodate any nurses at high risk for COVID-19 and do not assign them to care for suspected or confirmed COVID patients.
  • Give presumptive eligibility to health care workers for COVID-19. NNOC/NNU demands that states make sure all health care workers are automatically presumed eligible for workers' compensation if they contract COVID-19.

NNOC/NNU’s demands of individual hospital employers varied, because some hospitals had already agreed to provide some of the protections that nurses need.

NNOC/NNU's demands included that hospitals:

  • Notify all nurses who have come into contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient or hospital staff member who has been exposed.
  • Implement universal masking of all workers, while maintaining a protocol of N95 respirators for nurses caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
  • Provide training and assume all liability for work performed by nurses working outside their area of clinical competence. Further, NNOC/NNU demands the hospital will not discipline or report to state boards of nursing any nurses who may make inadvertent errors while working outside of their area of clinical competence to care for patients during this emergency.
  • Provide universal testing of all hospital employees and make retesting available upon request to avoid false negatives.
  • Not oppose workers' compensation claims related to COVID-19.
  • Not require nurses that are high risk related to COVID-19 to provide care for positive or suspected COVID patients.

Additionally, NNOC/NNU is asking hospitals to provide housing and child care to nurses, similar to the demand of states. NNOC/NNU emphasizes the urgency of the union’s demands, given the reported deaths of 25 RNs across the nation, including three members of NNOC/NNU’s parent organization, National Nurses United (NNU), as well as many nurses who have tested positive for the virus, including more than 220 NNU members.

“Nurses are not afraid to care for their patients if they have the right protections, but they currently are unprotected at work—and in their everyday lives as a result of being unnecessarily exposed at work,” said Castillo. “State governments and employers need to step up to protect and support all nurses on the front lines of this pandemic. And they need to do it now before one more nurse is exposed or one more nurse’s life is lost.