Newsweek highlights NNU’s protest against the CDC’s relaxed mask guidance
The May 2021 piece had some strong advocacy from National Nurses United, which argues that it’s too soon to tell vaccinated people they can stop wearing masks in most U.S. settings. Sadly, the article includes more about how the new guidance is playing out in California’s political scene than it does about whether NNU is actually right.
May 19, 2021 – Today Newsweek reported that National Nurses United (NNU) opposes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) new mask-wearing and distancing guidance for those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Meghan Roos’s “Largest U.S. Nurses Union Slams CDC’s Relaxed Mask Guidance as ‘Dangerous’” was based in part on a widely-covered NNU news conference. There, NNU president Jean Ross said the CDC guidance was “not in the best interest of public health.” Ross noted that nursing is “a profession based upon science, and the science shows this is exactly the wrong time to be relaxing our multi-pronged approach to infection control, that studies show actually work to control the virus.” The message that nursing is a science profession is great and not heard often enough.
Unfortunately, only at the end of the piece do readers learn anything about the specific basis for the union’s concern, namely that “fully vaccinated people may still be able to pass the virus along to unvaccinated people, of whom children and individuals with medical vulnerabilities remain groups of concern for COVID-19 exposure.” Ross:
We must resist the urge to act based on how we wished things were and deal honestly with the situation at hand.
Ross also praised states that have kept current mask guidance in place for now, including California. But the article spends less time on the science than on the low-substance political discussion among California health officials, local officials, and others who are hoping to unseat Governor Gavin Newsom in an expected recall election. More explanation might have helped readers understand the basis for NNU’s position. For example, the report might have noted that vaccinations do not prevent 100% of people from getting Covid. It might also have noted that without any practical way to know if someone really is vaccinated, the new guidance may well encourage the unvaccinated — who at the time of NNU’s statement were the majority of the U.S. population — to remove their masks as well. The piece does include a photo of NNU members with 400 empty pairs of white shoes they recently placed on Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, “to recognize the more than 400 registered nurses who have died from the COVID-19 pandemic.” This DC protest, presumably linked to the union’s longstanding advocacy for more personal protective equipment, is also strong public health advocacy. Thus, although the article is flawed, it does have some value, and we thank those responsible.
See the article by Meghan Roos: “Largest U.S. Nurses Union Slams CDC’s Relaxed Mask Guidance as ‘Dangerous’,” posted on May 19, 2021 on the Newsweek site.