WASHINGTON — Nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic protested outside of the White House Tuesday morning to bring attention to the lack of personal protection equipment for health care workers to take care of patients who may be infected with COVID-19.
Members of the National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the country, practiced social distancing at Lafeyette Park and read aloud the names of U.S. nurses who died of COVID-19 due to the lack of PPE.
"With no federal health and safety standard, nurses and other health care workers in many hospitals across the country have not been provided with adequate PPE to protect them from exposure to the virus," NNU said on their website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at least 9,200 health care workers have gotten sick, and at least 27 have died.
According to the NNU, the union petitioned the Trump administration's Occupational Safety and Health Administration on March 4 to create a temporary emergency standard so that health care workers are provided with the necessary PPE, including N95 respirators, face shields, gowns, gloves and shoe coverings, as well as ventilators and COVID-19 testing kits. They said they did not receive a response to their request.
They now ask that Congress include a mandatory OSHA emergency standard in its next COVID-19 legislative package. And they are demanding federal leaders to conduct mass testing to control the spread of the virus.
"President Trump we have a message for you: You have failed to protect our country against the novel coronavirus. You have failed to protect the American people. You have failed to ensure that our health care system can meet the needs of this challenge. You have failed to protect doctors, nurses, and all other healthcare workers," said Erica Jones, speaker at the NNU protest. "In doing so, you force us to risk our lives to save our patients."
On April 17, the NNU and the progressive group, MoveOn.org joined forces to raise the same concerns as the protest on Tuesday. During the protest, members planted 1,000 signs in front of the Capitol representing the 18 million health care workers battling COVID-19.
The organizers estimate there are 18 million doctors, nurses, and home nursing aides around the nation, so each sign represented 18,000 workers.
Learn more about the National Nurses United here.