Press Release

NNU invited to join CDC’s HICPAC workgroup on infection prevention

Group of nurses with raised fists, holding signs "Protect Nurses, Patients, Public Health"

The invitation of NNU to workgroup is a major victory for frontline nurses, other health care workers, and patients

National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the nation, is proud to announce that Jane Thomason, its lead industrial hygienist has been invited to join the workgroup of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also, Lisa Baum, lead occupational safety and health representative at NNU affiliate New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), has been invited to join HICPAC. 

HICPAC is currently updating the CDC’s Isolation Precautions guidance, which shapes infection control and prevention practices in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care settings across the nation and around the world. For many months, NNU has been urging the CDC to add experts, such as aerosol transmission scientists and frontline health care workers, to the HICPAC workgroup currently dominated by infection control staff from large hospital systems. 

“This is a major win for nurses and other health care workers,” said NNU President Nancy Hagans, RN, who is also the president of NYSNA. “We are so proud that NNU and NYSNA will now be part of HICPAC discussions. Our members have essential insights and expertise when it comes to infection prevention. We need to ensure that health care workers and patients are protected in health care settings, especially as we prepare for potential Covid surges or other infectious diseases.”

“Up to this point, HICPAC’s proposals have ignored critical science and weakened current protections for health care workers and patients because they have been dominated by infection prevention and industry viewpoints, to the exclusion of other essential expertise,” said NNU’s lead industrial hygienist Jane Thomason. “It is an essential step forward for HICPAC to include labor, occupational health, and industrial hygiene perspectives in the workgroup. Our expertise is essential to crafting robust, science-based guidance that fully protects health care workers and patients from infectious diseases.”

"Including the voices and expertise of frontline nurses and their representatives on HICPAC is essential for creating good health care policy," said NYSNA Lead Occupational Health & Safety Representative Lisa Baum, M.A., CSP, CSPHA. "Our members bore the brunt of poor infection control policy and health and safety protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic, but now we have an opportunity to set a new course and prioritize the protection of frontline healthcare workers and our patients."

NNU still has major concerns with current infection control draft guidance. According to meeting summaries acquired via NNU’s information requests, multiple members of the HICPAC Workgroup remain focused on maintaining and even expanding the use of surgical masks as protective equipment for health care workers and patients exposed to infectious diseases, among other significant concerns. NNU has been urging HICPAC to follow the science and strengthen, not weaken, the CDC’s infection control guidance.

Background on NNU’s HICPAC campaign:

On July 10, 2023, NNU delivered a letter to the CDC director outlining the union’s concerns about weakening the CDC’s guidance for infection control in health care settings. A similar letter, signed by nearly 900 leading public health experts, was sent to the CDC on July 20, 2023 opposing the draft proposed guidance, which contradicted scientific research on aerosol transmission and proposed to weaken existing guidance.

On Aug. 23, 2023, 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/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. 

On Nov. 3, 2023, 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 would be directly impacted by this guidance. NNU urged the CDC to reject HICPAC’s draft 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. 

On Nov. 29, 2023, NNU President Jean Ross, RN and Jane Thomason, NNU’s lead industrial hygienist publish an opinion piece, “CDC Advisors' Infection Control Guidance Leaves Us Unprotected,” about the HIPAC vote to finalize the draft guidance.

On Jan. 17, 2024, NNU’s ninth national survey of nurses finds that only 61.2 percent of hospital nurses report wearing a respirator for every encounter with a Covid-positive patient, despite ample scientific evidence that a respirator is necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). 

On Jan. 23, 2024, NNU applauded the CDC for rejecting HICPAC’s draft infection control guidance and sending it back to resolve some significant issues in the draft.

On April 4, 2024, NNU delivered a petition, signed by more than 5,600 individuals, commending CDC Director Mandy Cohen for rejecting HICPAC’s problematic draft and urging CDC to ensure all necessary perspectives are added to HICPAC and its workgroup, including frontline health care workers, unions, patients advocates, and other public health experts.

On May 6, 2024, Lisa Baum, lead occupational safety and health representative at NNU affiliate NYSNA, was invited to join HICPAC.

On May 10, 2024, Jane Thomason, NNU lead industrial hygienist, was invited to join the HICPAC workgroup.

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.