The number of COVID-19 cases in the U. S. has surpassed 6.5 million and, as of this writing, almost 200,000 people have died from the disease. Those statistics include the men and women who are in the front lines caring for the sick. “More than 1600 health care workers, including 200 nurses, have died in the U. S. from COVID-19”, says Gary Mousseau, a registered nurse at a local hospital.
Health care workers are at risk because of severe shortages of personal protection equipment (PPE). According to the Food and Drug Administration, PPE is “protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, face masks and/or respirators or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness.”
Health care protocols require health care workers to wear fresh, unused PPE for each patient they treat in order to prevent the spread of disease from patient to patient or to themselves. After a health care worker treats a patient, the used PPE should be disposed. But that is not happening in local hospitals says Gary: “Healthcare workers are forced to wear the same set of PPE for their entire shift. That is bad practice that affects both nurses and their patients. ” The worker can spread infection from one patient to another. Also, the PPE can tear and allow the worker to become infected. Gary himself got COVID-19: “Can you imagine the fear I had when I tested positive that I might infect my wife?”
Gary is a member of the nation’s largest registered nurse’s union, National Nurses United (NNU). Since the beginning of this year, the union has filed over 4000 worker safety complaints related to lack of PPE and other safety violations with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). NNU held protests at a national chain of hospitals, HCA Healthcare, to urge OSHA to step up its enforcement of worker safety.
NNU wants the Federal government to make the workplace safer for all workers. OSHA can issue Emergency Temporary Standards that would set guidelines to protect workers. In addition, the president can invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to mobilize industry to produce needed materials for the protection of the nation and to protect consumers from profiteering and price gouging. The president has not yet invoked the DPA in the interest of providing for the safety and welfare of our health care workers and health industry consumers.
But the president has invoked the DPA for other purposes. He used the DPA in April to increase the supply of ventilators. When meat supplies were drastically reduced because workers were getting sick from COVID-19 and unable to work, the president invoked DPA to increase meat supplies.
The HEROES Act, passed by the Democratic House of Representatives in April, addresses the PPE shortages and many other of the nation’s needs. The act would increase COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and strengthen workplace safety. But the bill sits on Senator Mitch McConnell’s desk.
Now is the time for us to take action and call our senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, to tell them we need to pass the HEROES ACT. “If we can pass the HEROES Act, we’ll save American lives”, says Gary.
Contact your Senators today!!
284 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Senator Rick Scott
716 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5274