A prominent group of nurses in California slammed a state plan to rollback masking and COVID-19 vaccine requirements in health care settings starting in April, arguing that the decision puts health care workers at risk.
The condemnation came Friday after the California Department of Public Health announced earlier in the day that it will no longer require masks to be worn in indoor high-risk and health care settings nor require health care workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 starting April 3.
The department noted that federal rules still ensure most health care workers are vaccinated for COVID-19.
But Bonnie Castillo, the executive director of the California Nurses Association, said in a release that the decision is a “failure of public health leadership.”
“Abandoning these standards is a counterproductive and unscientific approach to curbing the spread and evolution of Covid-19,” Castillo wrote. “This decision endangers the health and safety of nurses and other health care workers, hurts their ability to access personal protective equipment from employers, and ultimately exacerbates the health care staffing crisis that political leaders have vowed to tackle.”
The group noted that the rollback came just as the state surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.
The release states the association will notify the hospitals and clinics that employ their 100,000 members of their “continued responsibilities” to protect nurses and other health care workers.
“This is an attack on frontline health care workers, who will now face greater risk of Covid-19 infections, reinfections, and long Covid,” said Cathy Kennedy, the president of association.
“It’s surreal that political leaders would put nurses, patients, and community members at greater risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke risk, diabetes, pulmonary embolism, cognitive impairment, and long-term immune dysfunction,” she continued.
Their statement also highlighted a recent survey of nurses that found almost 60 percent of respondents needed to take time off work to recover from post-COVID or long-COVID symptoms over the course of the pandemic.
The state public health department also announced that starting March 13 it will reduce the time recommended for people infected with COVID-19 to five days as long as they feel well, have improving symptoms and do not have a fever.
The department will also rescind an order that required hospitals throughout the state to accept patients being transferred from facilities with limited intensive care capacity as needed starting April 3.
Officials said it could take these steps because of the investments that the state has made in its public health infrastructure. The department said it is still monitoring the science of the pandemic and taking recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance.