National Nurses United held a virtual press conference Monday, Nov. 23 to brief the nation on the challenges nurses face now as COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths surge to record-breaking highs in almost every state.
“With the infection numbers we are seeing now, we are on trajectory to see an unprecedented – and even cataclysmic – level of death and suffering if we don’t immediately correct course,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN and executive director of NNU. “Nurses are calling on our elected ofﬁcials, government agencies, our hospital employers, and the public to implement the science-based infection control measures that we have been demanding since the beginning of this pandemic.”
Nurses from a number of overwhelmed, hotspot areas across the country – including Minnesota, Illinois, Florida, Michigan, and Texas – shared their current experiences and challenges caring for Covid patients, including accessing optimal personal protective equipment (PPE), getting tested, having the resources and stafﬁng levels they need to provide safe care, getting notiﬁed when they have been exposed, being allowed to quarantine at home without loss of income when sick or exposed, and pressuring their hospital employers to practice proper infection control.
Nurses have been warning since January that the exact situation the country is now going through would happen if we did not follow the precautionary principle to err on the side of safety in response to this virus. Nearly a year later, hospitals and government agencies responsible for public and worker health and safety have still not gotten their act together. NNU’s latest, ongoing survey of more than 15,000 registered nurses shows that the vast majority of their hospital employers have knowingly failed to prepare for the winter cold and flu season: 82 percent of hospitals have done no surge capacity or planning.
The proﬁt motive has, devastatingly, driven national decision making on covid response, say nurses. Just this week, NNU released a report showing that U.S. hospitals, on average, charge $417 for every $100 of their costs, and the worst offenders can mark their prices up to 18 times their costs. State economies also opened prematurely. Federal, state, and local governments failed to lead and allowed political and business influences instead of science to guide their covid policies.
Consequently, more than 11.6 million people in the United States have been infected, resulting in upwards of a quarter million deaths — among which were more than 2,150 health care worker deaths that included at least 253 registered nurses.
In addition to immediately implementing science-based infection control measures and policies, NNU nurses urge Congress to pass a covid relief bill now that would provide the economic, health care, and social assistance people and small businesses in the United States need to stay at home until our infection rates are brought down to manageable levels.
National Nurses United is the nation’s largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses, with more than 170,000 members nationwide.