Nurses Protest Across Country Over 'Mass Confusion' on How to Prepare for Coronavirus

Nurses across the country have staged a day protest over concerns that hospitals and other medical facilities are not sufficiently protecting them or the public against the coronavirus.

Members of the country's largest nursing union, National Nurses United (NNU), along with its affiliate the California Nurses Association, held rallies outside hospitals and medical centers on March 11 in protest of the "ineffective" employer and government response to COVID-19.

Among the concerns raised by the nurses is how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "further weakened" guidance on measures to contain the virus, including rolling back protective equipment standards from N95 masks to regular surgical masks.

The group also said protocols such as requiring suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients to be isolated at all times and protections for health care workers collecting respiratory samples have also been weakened.

The nurses staged their rallies on the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

The protests, which took place in outside hospitals and medical centers in cities such California's Oakland and Sacramento, Chicago, Illinois and Augusta, Georgia, accused facilities of being severely ill-prepared to deal with the outbreak which has seen more than 260,000 confirmed cases worldwide.

Ahead of the protests, NNU released a survey on March 5 which revealed only 44 percent of registered nurses have been provided with information from their employer about coronavirus, including how to recognize and respond to possible cases.

Just 29 percent of nurses taking part in the survey report there is a plan in place to isolate a patient with a possible coronavirus infection where they work, with 23 percent saying they don't know if there is a plan.

Falguni Dave, a charge nurse at Stroger Hospital in the Illinois Medical District, said the CDC must shoulder the blame for the "mass confusion" about response to the outbreak.

"We're all confused as to what we need to do if we get a suspected case of coronavirus here at the hospital," Dave told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"The virus is just the latest in a long string of infectious disease crises that we have dealt with in recent years, including SARS, H1N1 [swine flu] and Ebola," Marcia Santini, an emergency room nurse at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) medical center, told AFP. "Each time we are faced with a new infectious disease, our union is forced to address staffing, protection equipment and training."

Nurses protest to oppose what they call the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) weak response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, March 11, 2020 outside the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty

This week, it emerged that a Seattle-based nursing home where 13 of its residents have died from COVD-19 does not have enough kits to test 65 employees showing symptoms of the virus.

In a statement Bonnie Castillo, NNU executive director, said: "If nurses and health care workers aren't protected, that means patients and the public are not protected. This is a major public health crisis of unknown proportions. Now is not the time to be weakening our standards and protections, or cutting corners. Now is the time we should be stepping up our efforts."

The CDC has been contacted for comment.

There are now over 1,300 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, with 38 deaths and 8 recoveries. Globally, there are over 126,000 cases, with over 4,600 deaths and 68,300 recoveries.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the world as of March 11.

coronavirus, map, countries, world, cases, covid-19

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Hygiene advice:

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.

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