NNU applauds CDC for sending draft infection guidance back to HICPAC for revision
National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union and professional association for registered nurses in the nation, applauds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for sending the draft infection control guidance back to the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) to resolve some significant issues in the draft. NNU has been urging the CDC to reject HICPAC’s draft guidelines and to actively engage the input of frontline nurses, other health care workers, their unions, patients, and public health experts, in addition to infection preventionists, in the development of a new draft of the updated guidance.
“We are in the midst of a surge of respiratory illnesses, Covid, influenza, and RSV, which underlines why it is so critical that we strengthen protections for nurses and other health care workers,” said NNU President Jean Ross, RN. “If the HICPAC draft guidelines went into effect today, we know that nurses and other health care workers’ lives would be put at risk. More than 5,700 health care workers, including 501 registered nurses have already died of Covid.
“We are gratified that the CDC is asking HICPAC to resolve some of our core concerns, including the use of N95 respirators versus surgical masks to protect health care workers from pathogens that transmit through the air. As nurses, we always want to follow the science and we know that surgical masks do not provide the same level of protection as an N95 respirator.
“We also support the CDC asking HICPAC to consider expanding recommendations about controlling how pathogens are transmitted in health care settings, Sending the draft back to HICPAC for more work is a step in the right direction to ensure optimal protections for nurses, patients, and all health care workers.”
NNU also commends the CDC on its intention to expand the scope of expertise on HICPAC and its work group developing updated recommendations and urges the CDC to ensure that union representatives of health care workers and other experts with essential insights and expertise are included.
On Aug. 21, NNU delivered a petition signed by nearly 11,000 individuals and organizations, including 11 unions and 45 public health, occupational health, and patient advocacy organizations collectively representing more than 6 million members across the country, to the CDC and HICPAC, urging them to fully recognize aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory pathogens and to strengthen the CDC’s Isolation Precautions guidance, which has not been updated since 2007.
On Nov. 2, NNU called out HICPAC for planning to vote that day to approve the draft Isolation Precautions Guideline without getting input from frontline health care workers, patients, industrial hygienists, research scientists, ventilation engineers, or experts in occupational health and respiratory protection.
On Nov. 3, NNU condemned HICPAC’s unanimous vote to finalize a draft of infection control guidelines before giving the public ample time to review the draft or before seeking input from health care workers and patients whose health and safety will be directly impacted by this guidance.
On Nov. 29, Medpage Today publishes NNU President Jean Ross and the union’s lead industrial hygienist Jane Thomason’s opinion piece expressing concern that the draft infection control guidance “offers minimal recommendations to the CDC, and even worse, incorrectly treats surgical masks as respiratory protection,” putting the nation “in a weak position to protect patients and staff from currently circulating viruses and will leave us behind the curve in battling future pandemics.”
On Dec. 16, 2023, NNU delivered a petition to CDC Director, Mandy Cohen – signed by nearly 5,300 individuals and 53 organizations representing more than 4.2 million members – urging the agency to reject HICPAC’s 2024 draft and protect health care workers and patients from infectious diseases.
National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates include California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association.