They held Congress accountable for failing to protect healthcare workers; our best defense against the global crisis right now.
Registered nurses gathered in front of the White House on Tuesday to read out the names of the colleagues they've lost in the battle against this pandemic. The protest was organized by National Nurses United—a union of registered nurses across the country— aiming to hold Congress accountable for failing to protect healthcare workers; our best defense against the global crisis right now. Standing six feet apart from each other, the masked protestors held up photographs of fellow registered nurses and other health care workers who've been infected by the virus or died because of the lack of personal protective equipment.
According to The Washington Post, Melody Jones—a member of the National Nurses United union—addressed reporters before reading about 45 names, which she revealed was only a partial list of medical workers who've lost their lives due to the drastic shortage of PPE. "Let us remember and honor the ultimate sacrifice these nurses paid," said Jones. "We commit ourselves to fight like hell for the living." Her message rang across Lafayette Square as a man in blue scrubs stood right behind her holding a metallic gold sign that said: 20 seconds won't scrub 'hero' blood off your hands.
Speaking to CBS News, Britta Breenan, a critical care nurse at Washington Hospital Center and member of the NNU, said: "We are not heroes. We're human beings and we are susceptible just like everyone else is. And if we are dying then we can't take care of our patients. We have had nurses from our hospital die from COVID-19. And they are not dignified deaths." Amirah Sequeira, the lead legislative advocate for the union raged that registered nurses and other health care workers across the country "are still not protected when they are caring for suspected or COVID-19 patients."
We’ve reached the point where nurses are protesting outside the White House for protective equipment pic.twitter.com/YyNyu4TBS9— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 21, 2020
"Nurses are getting sick and nurses are dying and the administration and Congress have failed. For more than six weeks they have failed to protect our nurses," said Sequeira. The protesting nurses explained that they wanted to bring their demands for more PPE directly to the President's doorstep. Their call for more protective equipment to shield themselves and vulnerable patients from the spread of the virus has been going on for weeks. Last month, the NNU petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to initiate an emergency safety standard that would provide healthcare workers with sufficient protective gear.
Fed up nurses file lawsuits, plan protest at White House over lack of coronavirus protections https://t.co/ykbbIKWcH8— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 21, 2020
The union has now reportedly directed its demands at President Trump, Congress, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We have been calling for more than a month for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard to protect workers. The Trump administration, Congress has failed us and has been failing us for months," said Sequeira. The NNU has also demanded that President Trump fully invoke the Defense Production Act and ask manufacturers to urgently increase the production of respirators, face shields, coveralls, gowns, gloves, testing equipment, and supplies.
"20 seconds won't scrub 'hero' blood off your hands."— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 21, 2020
Nurses are protesting at the White House over shortages of protective gear, saying Pres Trump has failed to protect health workers. The CDC confirms over 9,200 are infected and 27 have died, but says the total is much higher. pic.twitter.com/GuAQ0DDQXC
Although the President announced on Sunday that the Act will be invoked to increase the production of swabs for testing, he did not address the shortage of PPE across the country. The government also refused to launch a coordinated national procurement effort for protective equipment, with President Trump stating that the U.S. was "not a shipping clerk. The federal government's not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping." Earlier this month, a U.S. official revealed that the federal government isn't buying PPE directly from Chinese manufacturers. Instead, the FEMA has been helping American distributors fly shipments of gloves, gowns, and masks from the Southeast Asian country to supply them to frontline workers faster. In a statement, it said that 50% of the PPE is sent directly to hotspots, and "the remaining 50% is fed into distributors' normal supply chain to their customers in other areas nationwide."