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Nurses union urges CDC to reverse updated COVID-19 guidance

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Silver Spring, MD — Claiming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “once again responding to political pressures from those desperate to remove any safety protocols during this deadly pandemic that is still causing unacceptable numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths every day,” the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses is calling on the agency to reverse its most recent COVID-19 guidance.

On Feb. 25, CDC updated its guidance, introducing a three-tiered, color-coded “community level” system “to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data.” Levels of transmission risk are designated as low (green), medium (yellow) or high (red), and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions and the total number of new cases in an area.

Under those new metrics, about 70% of the U.S. population is considered at low or medium risk. Mask use is recommended in only high transmission areas, as well as for people with symptoms, who test positive or are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

“The new color-coded scheme will create confusion and public distrust in what is safe and what is not,” National Nurses United President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said in a press release. “The danger to our most vulnerable populations, including immunocompromised individuals and young children, is especially worrisome.”

NNU takes issue with CDC’s determination that anything up to than 200 cases per 100,000 people would still be considered low transmission.


“The new ‘low’ could now be up to 20 times higher than the previous standard, which is certainly not warranted with the ongoing numbers of hospitalizations still occurring and ever-escalating reports of new variants such as BA-2,” Triunfo-Cortez said.

By focusing mainly on hospital capacity metrics, Triunfo-Cortez says, CDC isn’t making masking about individual and community protection, and isn’t providing needed protections for the immunocompromised, young children or other vulnerable populations.

“If you wait until hospital capacity is strained, it will be too late and you are courting disaster,” she said. “Everyone is anxious to get this long trial of the pandemic to an end, but relaxing safety protocols will only continue unnecessary and unwarranted loss of life, and further strains for our already overwhelmed frontline caregivers.”

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