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Nurses holding May Day protests nationwide demanding PPE, union says

Michigan works to expand coronavirus testing
Michigan expands coronavirus testing but grapples with supply shortages 03:50

Nurses with National Nurses United, a nationwide union of registered nurses, are planning to protest Friday at 139 hospitals across 13 states. They're demanding more personal protective equipment (PPE) as they treat patients with COVID-19, according to the union. 

More than 60 nurses across the country have died of COVID-19, according to NNU. The union says, however, that number is likely higher due to a lack of testing

"Nurses signed up to care for their patients. They did not sign up to sacrifice their lives on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic," said NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo, RN, in a press release from the union. 

NNU has already held several protests calling for more PPE. On April 21, a cohort of the union's nurses stood in front of the White House holding photos of fellow registered nurses and other health care workers who have become infected or died from COVID-19 while at work.

The NNU is holding their latest protest on May 1 — International Workers Day, also known as May Day. "On this day that celebrates the labor movement and working people, union nurses are standing up to demand the protections they need now!" Castillo said. 

The union is calling on its employers and the government to provide nurses and other health care workers with better protection. The union has specifically cited a need for more gloves, N95 respirator masks, which block at least 95 percent of very small particles, as well as full-body coverings like Powered Air Purifying Respirators, called PAPRs, and coveralls that incorporate head coverings and shoe coverings. 

"Otherwise, hospitals will remain fomites for infection, say NNU RNs, and nurses and health care workers will continue to get sick and sidelined, die, and be unable to care for the next wave of patients," reads NNU's press release. 

According to the union, the PPE industry has not ramped-up production in response to shortages. Instead, NNU says it has urged health care workers to reuse and decontaminate PPE that is intended for single-use. NNU called the practice "unacceptable and unsafe."

One month after its first coronavirus-related protests, the union is once again calling on President Trump to fully invoke the Defense Production Act, ordering manufacturers to urgently increase the production of respirators, face shields, coveralls, gowns, gloves, testing equipment and supplies. 

The NNU has also urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to pass an "emergency temporary standard" that mandates all healthcare employers be provided with protections necessary to safely treat COVID-19. 

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