Press Release

RNs encouraged by California’s decision to continue mandatory masking

Nurse holds sign "Prioritize Public Health"

California registered nurses condemn recent CDC guidance as dangerous

California Nurses Association (CNA) is encouraged that California health officials have announced their intention to continue observing current Covid-19 guidance, including mandatory masking, until June 15, but warns that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent guidance for vaccinated people is based upon faulty science and urges all public health officials to maintain multiple measures of infection control to curb Covid-19 transmission. We join with our national affiliate, National Nurses United (NNU), in condemning the CDC for stating that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks, avoid crowds or large gatherings, and no longer need to isolate after exposure or get tested unless they develop symptoms.

“When it comes to public health, science must be the North Star,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, and a president of CNA and NNU. “Right now, more than 600 people a day are still dying of Covid-19 in the U.S. and more than half of the population is not yet fully vaccinated. California’s decision to wait to make any changes to the current guidance on masking and other critical protections is a prudent one that we applaud. We encourage our state officials to continue to look to the data and the science when making these critical public health decisions and not cave to political pressure or arbitrary timelines.”

“We must protect the lives of our patients, the lives of nurses, and other health care and essential workers across the country,” said Sandy Reding, RN and a president of CNA. “We know the best way to do that is with multiple layers of protection, which includes masking as well as social distancing, and isolation following exposure. We have already lost more than 400 nurses to Covid-19 and 586,000 people living in the United States and more than 61,000 Californians. We must follow the precautionary principle in order to keep our neighbors, our community, and our loved ones safe.”

California Nurses Association cites concerns with the new guidance including:

  • A continued high number of Covid cases in the United States, with more than 35,000 new detected infections reported each day, and more than 610 people dying from Covid each day. 

  • Circulation of Covid variants of concern that are more transmissible, deadlier, and may already be or may become vaccine resistant.

  • Unanswered questions about vaccines. Nurses emphasize that it’s unclear how well vaccines prevent asymptomatic and mild Covid infections, how well vaccines prevent transmission of the virus, and how long protection from vaccines will last.

  • The CDC announced it would no longer be tracking infections among fully vaccinated people unless they result in hospitalization or death. This means that the CDC is no longer tracking data necessary to understand whether vaccines prevent asymptomatic/mild infections, how long vaccine protection may last, and to understand how variants impact vaccine protection.

  • Preventing and reducing transmission of Covid requires multiple layers of protective measures. Nurses say this includes masks, distancing, and avoiding crowds and large gatherings—in addition to vaccines. Importantly, it also includes protecting nurses and other essential workers from workplace exposure to the virus. Vaccines are only one important component of a robust, public health infection control program.

  • The recent guidelines are unjust and will disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and people of color as well as children under age 12, the immunocompromised, and medically vulnerable people who do not qualify for vaccination.

    “There has been so much inequity in the vaccine rollout and racial inequity in who is an essential worker put most at risk by this guidance. The impact of the CDC’s guidance update will be felt disproportionately by workers of color and their families and communities,” said Triunfo-Cortez.

    All of our protective measures should remain in place, in addition to vaccines. This pandemic is not over,” said NNU President Deborah Burger, RN. “Nurses follow the precautionary principle, which means that until we know for sure something is safe, we use the highest level of protections, not the lowest. The CDC is putting lives at risk with this latest guidance.”