National Nurses United, the country's largest union for registered nurses, was responsible for the protest. They demanded that the US Senate pass the Democrat-backed HEROES Act.
The United States shows no signs of slowing down the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, in addition to the scores of citizens who have died from contracting the Coronavirus, frontline health workers too have become a casualty. In order to protest the lack of leadership from the federal government, nurses took to the US Capitol with more than 120 pairs of white shoes. They placed the shoes on the Capitol lawn in honor of their colleagues who had passed away as a result of contracting the illness while on the job, CNN reports. Nurses have since implored the US Senate to pass the HEROES Act, legislation which would, among other things, increase the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep nurses safe.
The shoes were placed on the lawn by members of National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union for registered nurses in the country. The demonstration was also a vigil to remember all the nurses who had lost their lives during the public health crisis. Members of the union also highlighted once again the need for the sweeping $3 trillion Democrat-backed HEROES Act, which they argued would save both patients' and nurses' lives. The bill, which grants direct payments to Americans and funding for state and local governments, has already been passed by the US House of Representatives where Democrats hold a majority.
Stephanie Sims, a Registered Nurse and a member of the NNU, has blamed the federal government's response (or lack of it) for the nation's rapidly escalating number of deaths. She claimed the "staggering" death rate in the US demonstrated a "complete and utter failure of Presidential and Congressional leadership." These were the same sentiments the union expressed in May when it carried out a similar protest in front of the White House. At the time, there were 70,000 Coronavirus deaths. Now, that has doubled, rising to over 140,000 deaths. As of Tuesday this week, 164 nurses had died due to the illness, some of them at the same hospital that they worked in. While this is a small percentage of overall deaths, it is still unacceptable.
The HEROES Act could prevent such further deaths, but the legislation has been stalled in the US Senate after it was passed by the House on May 15. This is because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP Senators have reportedly been drafting their own stimulus bill without the input of Senators from the Democratic Party, as per Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. This could be a problem as even United States President Donald Trump, the GOP's incumbent candidate for the upcoming Presidential elections, has taken a laissez-faire approach to providing frontline health workers the resources they need in order to do their jobs. In the recent past, the Trump administration faced harsh criticism for not invoking the Defense Production Act to produce masks and other PPE. Rather than forcing nurses and other health workers to rely on the private market and potentially risk their lives, it's time for the government to do more.