On Tuesday, health care workers held a demonstration outside of the White House, naming colleagues who have passed away during the coronavirus pandemic. One nurse stood at the front of the protest, reading the names of others who died of COVID-19, contracted while treating patients through the crisis. She asked that the Trump administration "listen to their names and take action."
"This morning, we remember the thousands of nurses and other health care workers who have become infected with COVID-19, and those who have died," she said, in a video published by NBC News. "We are demanding that the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress listen to these names — all dedicated nurses who have left families, friends and colleagues behind. Listen to their names and take action, so that more nurses don't get sick and die."
A nurse at a protest at the White House reads off the names of nurses who are known to have died from coronavirus in the US.
“We are demanding that the Trump admin. and the US Congress listen to these names ... Listen to their names and take action.” pic.twitter.com/FLpotxR7Vk— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 21, 2020
The protester then read off the names of over 50 deceased nurses, and the city and state they worked in. Many of the others behind her held signs with pictures of the deceased, and when she got to their names, they raised them higher for emphasis. "Let us remember and honor the ultimate sacrifice these nurses paid, mourn their passing, and re-commit ourselves to fight like hell for the living. Thank you," the speaker finished.
This was just part of a larger protest organized by National Nurses United, according to NBC News. The demonstrators were there to hold the government accountable for the shortage of gloves, masks, respirators and other PPE available through this crisis. Another speaker said: "If you don't protect us, we can't protect our patients."
This is just the latest in a string of demonstrations staged by health care professionals, who say that elected officials and hospital executives are not doing enough to protect the people on the front line of combating this pandemic. In interviews with nurses around the country on Monday, NBC News reported on many who did not agree with the way that supplies were being withheld or distributed by their employers. However, refusing to work under the conditions provided could result in those nurses being fired, and left with no income during these uncertain economic times.
"We know that the CDC policy is built on shortage. It's not built on proven evidence," said Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine. "Reusing things, it's a policy that is trying to adapt to the reality of shortage. And so, to say you have to follow CDC guidelines isn't enough in a pandemic."
Caplan said that lawmakers in Washington are partly responsible for the PPE shortages in the U.S., and that the nurses' grievances are understandable. He said that he could see why nurses "would be leery of trusting messages about protective gear that come from Washington." For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the websites of the CDC or the World Health Organization.