N95 medical mask

Unions representing registered nurses and others who work in long-term care are urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reconsider its May 13 guidance on mask-wearing and social distancing for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, to protect workers.

Under the new guidelines, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or stay six feet away from others, except where required by law, according to the CDC. As of May 19, more than 125 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing about 37% of the total population, according to the agency’s COVID data tracker. People are considered fully vaccinated when two weeks have passed since their Johnson & Johnson shot or since their second Pfizer or Moderna shot.

National Nurses United, which represents registered nurses, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union  which represents RNs, certified nursing assistants, transport and food service workers, dietary assistants, professional and technical staff, maintenance workers and housekeepers, some of whom work in assisted living communities, maintain that there is no scientific reason to loosen virus-related restrictions among those who are inoculated against COVID-19.

“Science shows this is exactly the wrong time to be relaxing our multipronged approach to infection control that studies show actually works to control the virus,” NNU President Jean Ross said at a press conference reported on by Law360.

In a statement issued last week, UFCW International President Marc Perrone said: “Vaccinations are helping us take control of this pandemic, but we must not let our guard down. As one of America’s largest unions for essential workers, UFCW is calling on the CDC and our nation’s leaders to clarify how this new policy will be implemented, how essential workers will be protected, and how these workers will protect the communities they serve.”

House Ways and Means Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) said that workers of color are “raising legitimate questions about what the administration is doing to make workplaces safer for those who have already suffered the greatest harm.”

“Throughout the pandemic, the federal response has treated workers’ health and safety as an inconvenience rather than a top priority. That approach has cost people their lives,” he said in a May 18 press release.