CDC Condemned by National Nurses United for Updated Guidance

May 18, 2021 by Reece Nations
Exterior of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters is seen in 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images/TNS)

National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in the United States, issued a rebuke of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated public health recommendations for people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

The CDC’s updated guidance states “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting,” a change that officials at NNU quickly took issue with. The updated guidance also asserts that fully vaccinated people do not need to subject themselves to COVID-19 tests after a known exposure unless they are residents or employees of a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter. 

NNU cited the continued high number of COVID-19 cases nationally and the circulation of variants of concern in their objections to the CDC’s new guidance. Additionally, NNU contended that reducing transmissions nationally would require “multiple layers of protective measures.”  

“This newest CDC guidance is not based on science, does not protect public health, and threatens the lives of patients, nurses, and other frontline workers across the country,” NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a written statement. “Now is not the time to relax protective measures, and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.”

Castillo continued, “CDC issued this new guidance even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration emergency temporary standard mandated by President Biden’s Jan. 21 executive order has been delayed for two months. This lack of protection compounds the dangers that nurses and other essential workers continue to face on the job.”

The CDC guidance cites a “growing body of evidence” suggesting the fully vaccinated are less likely to have asymptomatic infections or transmit COVID-19 to other people. However, the guidance states the duration of the vaccine’s protection and its effectiveness against emerging variants are “still under investigation.” 

Under the CDC’s updated guidance, the fully vaccinated can resume pre-pandemic activities without wearing masks or physically distancing themselves, except where required by law or mandated by private businesses or workplaces. Further, the CDC guidance states fully vaccinated people may refrain from being tested for COVID-19 before or after traveling domestically or abroad. 

“There has been so much inequity in the vaccine rollout and racial inequity in who is a frontline worker put most at risk by this guidance,” NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said in a written statement. “The impact of the CDC’s guidance update will be felt disproportionately by workers of color and their families and communities.” 

NNU in its release also denounced the CDC’s decision to no longer track infections among the fully vaccinated unless they result in hospitalization or death. Should a fully vaccinated person begin experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the CDC still recommends them to quarantine and get tested for the virus. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky went on to defend the updated guidance on a swath of cable new programs following public backlash from the announcement. Walensky appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, Fox News Sunday and ABC’s This Week to explain the CDC’s rationale for updating its guidance. 

“We are asking people to take their health into their own hands, to get vaccinated, and if they don’t, then they continue to be at risk. For the unvaccinated, our policy has not changed,” Walensky said on This Week. “We were going to get to a place in this pandemic where vaccinated people were going to be able to take off their mask. We’re lucky to be there with the science that we have, and now we have to take this foundational step that is completely based in science and understand what it means as we open the entire country.”

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