The union National Nurses United wants the Biden administration to reinstate universal masking regardless of vaccination status as COVID-19 cases start to rise again in parts of the U.S.
The union wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Monday that the agency also needs to create a national framework for tracking and reporting infections among healthcare workers. The union added that there has been a 16% increase in daily cases over the past week, with the largest case spikes coming in states with low vaccination rates.
“It should come as no surprise that cases are rising following the rapid reopening of many states and the removal of public health measures, including the CDC’s May 13 update that told vaccinated individuals they no longer need to wear masks,” the letter wrote.
It wants thw CDC to reinstate the universal masking policies where everyone wear masks in public or in physical proximity to others outside of their own household, even if they are vaccinated.
“While COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death from the virus for vaccinated individuals, no vaccine is 100% effective,” the letter said.
The union was also concerned about the prevalence of the delta variant that has become the dominant strain in the U.S. Data have shown that people who are vaccinated can still get infection from delta, albeit in rare instances.
“More than 40 states have seen an increase in daily new cases over the previous two weeks, and more than 25 states have seen an increase in hospitalizations,” National Nurses United wrote to the CDC.
The CDC also needs to make a uniform national framework to track and report COVID-19 infections among healthcare and other essential workers.
“As of July 11, 2021, only 18.91% of COVID-19 case reports received by the CDC have known healthcare provider status,” the letter said.
The CDC should also expand the infections it tracks among the vaccinated. Currently, the agency only tracks infections that result in hospitalizations and death, but more data are needed to understand the protection of the vaccine, the union said.
“It remains unclear how effective COVID-19 vaccines are for immunocompromised individuals, how long protection may last and how well COVID-19 vaccines prevent asymptomatic and mild infections and transmission of the virus,” National Nurses United said.
The CDC did not immediately return a request for comment on the demands.
National Nurses United has pressed the federal government for more protections for front-line healthcare workers. The union demanded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issue an emergency temporary protection standard that outlined requirements for employers to protect their workers from contracting the virus.