Nurses Applaud Biden’s National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response
National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the United States, applauded and enthusiastically welcomed President Biden’s new National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, released on January 21; the executive orders and actions related to Covid-19 that the president signed on his first three days in office; and his stimulus plan, the American Rescue Plan, released on January 14.
“For a full year, the nation’s nurses have been calling on federal elected officials to take comprehensive action to combat Covid-19. In his first days in office, President Biden has shown us that he is listening to the concerns and the expertise of nurses by taking immediate action on the worker health and safety protections and broader public health protections that we have been demanding,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, executive director of National Nurses United.
According to Castillo, the National Strategy for Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness contains “the comprehensive plan that our country has been sorely missing in the response to this pandemic.” Nurses say they look forward to working with the president and his administration on the details of implementation and enforcement of this plan, and they strongly urge the administration to begin implementation promptly.
“We are particularly pleased that the president signed strong executive orders to protect worker health and safety and to improve the medical supply chain. In signing these orders, the president has begun the process of issuing an Occupational Safety and Health emergency temporary standard to protect workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, and has directed his administration to ensure the increased production and distribution of critical medical supplies, including PPE,” said Castillo.
The union also applauded the American Rescue Plan, proposed by President Biden, which contains many economic relief measures for which NNU has been advocating.
“The stimulus package proposed by the president would provide immediate economic relief and supports for millions of people across the country,” said Castillo. “Nurses know that this economic relief is necessary to help people stay home and stay safe during this pandemic, and to ensure the housing and food security that is essential to the health and wellbeing of our patients. We call on Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan immediately.”
In addition to the game-changing executive orders on worker health and safety and the medical supply chain, NNU pointed to critical and necessary measures in additional executive orders and actions signed by the president in the past few days and reflected in the Covid-19 response plan. These include commitments to:
- Update CDC guidance based on science. Throughout the pandemic, said nurses, the Trump administration’s CDC put nurses, patients and the public in danger by publishing dangerous guidance that was not based on scientific evidence.
- Provide paid sick and family leave and extend this leave to more workers, including the removal of the health care worker exemption. Nurses and other health care workers have not been eligible for the paid sick and family leave that Congress passed last spring, but they are direly in need of access to this leave.
- Increase federal support to increase health care capacity and respond to surge situations. The stimulus proposal includes $350 billion for state, local, and territorial governments, and an additional $20 billion for tribal governments. The president signed a memorandum to increase the use of the National Guard to provide pandemic support and relief, and increased the reimbursements for these services to ensure that FEMA covers 100 percent of these costs, while the executive order on “Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for Covid-19” directs federal agencies to provide targeted surge assistance to critical care and long term care facilities.
- Establish a national Covid-19 testing strategy.
- Enhance data collection and ensure the transparent gathering, sharing and publication of Covid-19 related data. Throughout the pandemic, federal and state governments have neglected, hidden and manipulated Covid-19 data. Detailed consistent data is necessary to understand how and where the virus is spreading and how to best control it.
- Prioritize health equity in all aspects of the pandemic response, including through the creation of the Covid-19 Health Equity Taskforce.
- Develop a comprehensive and efficient strategy for vaccinations.
- Reengage with international partners and the World Health Organization on global health priorities both relating specifically to the Covid-19 pandemic and to other global health concerns.
“Nurses have been on the front lines of this pandemic since it began,” said Castillo. “For nearly a year, we have been exhausted both physically and emotionally, and consistently and unnecessarily put at risk at work. Hundreds of nurses have died due to lack of protections at work. The actions that President Biden has taken in the past three days have given us relief and hope after a traumatic year. We’re ready to get to work to make this Covid-19 response plan a reality.”