Nurses' Union Blasts CDC's Latest Face Mask Guidance

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube, CBS 8 San Diego

Frontline essential workers across the US are criticizing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcement last week that individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks indoors and outdoors.

In a statement released Saturday, National Nurses United (NNU), the country’s largest union of registered nurses, said the CDC’s latest 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, “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.”

“This is a huge blow to our efforts at confronting the virus and the pandemic,” added Castillo. “The mask is another lifesaving layer of protection for workers.”

The reversal of the CDC’s earlier guidance also caught workers in the retail and food industries by surprise. 

In a statement last week, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union – the country’s largest union for frontline retail and grocery workers – said the revision “is confusing and fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.”

“Essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures,” the union said.

Under the CDC’s updated guidance released Thursday, vaccinated people now only need to wear masks under certain circumstances, such as in healthcare settings, on public transportation or in areas where state or local governments mandate it.

Additionally, they will still need to follow mask rules set out by workplaces and businesses, according to the CDC.

Unvaccinated people should continue wearing face masks and observing social distancing rules, the CDC said.

Since the CDC’s announcement, several major retailers and supermarkets, including Walmart Inc, Trader Joe’s, Costco Wholesale Corporation and Publix Super Markets Inc, have updated mask policies, moving to an honor system in which they trust that only fully vaccinated people will go mask-less.  

Those companies have noted mandates in stores will differ from state to state, depending on local and state restrictions.

Retailers such as Target Corporation and CVS Pharmacy said they plan to continue requiring face coverings for shoppers, for now, according to The New York Times.

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Despite the outcry, the CDC maintains its updated rules are based on science.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told NPR, “That science, in conjunction with all of the epidemiologic data that we have, really says now is the moment.” 

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