National Nurses United (NNU) slammed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on its new COVID-19 guidance. The guidelines say fully vaccinated people can forgo wearing masks and don’t need to be tested for the coronavirus following exposure if they are free of symptoms.

“The newest 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, RN, said.

NNU is the largest nurses union, representing 170,000 members nationally, including home health nurses.

The CDC released the relaxed guidelines last week, citing a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases and the expansion of vaccine eligibility to anyone age 12 and over. The new guidelines say fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing masks and don’t need to physically distance themselves, except where required by other state, local or tribal governments.

But NNU expressed outrage that the CDC would drop the mask mandate while the pandemic is still raging and only 37% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated.

NNU expressed concern over the 35,000 new cases reported daily last week, more transmissible variants being detected and what it calls “unanswered questions about the vaccine” as it relates to length of protection and how well it prevents transmission.

The organization said protective measures should remain in place, while vaccinations continue.

“This pandemic is not over,” NNU President Deborah Burger, RN, said. “Nurses follow precautionary principle, which means that until we know for sure something is safe, we use the highest level of protection, not the lowest. The CDC is putting lives at risk with this latest guidance.”

Some home healthcare and home care firms told McKnight’s Home Care Daily last week they will continue to require staff to wear masks indefinitely due to the patchwork of state and local mask requirements and to protect clients and staff.