Union remembers 164 nurses who have died of COVID-19, pleads with Congress for more PPE

Union remembers 164 nurses who have died of COVID-19, pleads with Congress for more PPE
Posted at 11:35 AM, Jul 22, 2020

Members of the largest nurses union in the country held a memorial for the more the 164 nurses who have died of COVID-19 in Washington on Tuesday and called on Congress to pass legislation that they said would provide more nurses with personal protective equipment.

Members of National Nurses United placed 164 pairs of white shoes on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building Tuesday while the names of nurses who have died of the virus were read aloud.

"There are no words that can fully express the anger and the sadness I feel this morning," Stephanie Simms of the United Nurses Union said, according to ABC News. "Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. All gone."

The union held a similar event at the White House in May, when they placed 88 pairs on the ground.

The union also called on the Senate to pass the HEROES Act, a COVID-19 stimulus bill introduced by Democratic representatives that passed the House of Representatives in May. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) says the Senate will not consider the House bill.

The HEROES Act contains a provision that would increase the production of personal protective equipment through the National Defense Act. Nurses have reported difficulty in getting such equipment — including N95 masks, gloves and protective gowns — in some parts of the country.

"How many of these frontline nurses would be here today if they had had the equipment they needed to do their jobs safely?" Zenei Cortez, a registered nurse and president of National Nurses United, said in a statement. "We urge the Senate to act now to pass this bill, and to make sure that an OSHA emergency standard on infectious diseases for frontline workers is promulgated and the Defense Production Act is fully invoked so that PPE can be mass-produced in the volumes required."

Bipartisan talks are currently underway for another round of coronavirus stimulus. While the HEROES Act provides more direct payments to American citizens like the CARES Act, President Donald Trump and some Republicans have said they prefer funds to be provided through a payroll tax cut, which they said would encourage employment. However, opponents argue that the country's current unemployment rate makes such a plan not feasible.