Nurses bring empty shoes to Capitol honor the dead, lobby for protective gear

NATIONAL NURSES UNITED members brought 160 pairs of empty nurses’ shoes to the Capitol last week to memorialize colleagues lost to the coronavirus pandemic. – PAI photo

Washington (PAI) – Bringing 160 pairs of empty nurses’ shoes to memorialize colleagues lost to the coronavirus pandemic, National Nurses United members descended on the U.S. Capitol July 21 to demand Congress provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of the next economic stimulus bill.

The nurses carefully arrayed the shoes on the Senate side of the building’s lawn — the same stretch of green where Black Lives Matter campaigners stood with signs the day before urging senatorial passage of the same measure, the HEROES Act. The nurses held up pictures of dead colleagues.

With almost 200,000 registered nurse members, NNU is the largest registered nurses union in the U.S.

The Democratic-run House passed its $3 trillion version of the measure, including NNU’s provision in March ordering the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency rule, to take effect now, forcing hospitals and nursing homes to develop and execute anti-virus protection plans.

Had such protections been in place earlier, the nurses union contends, far fewer nurses would have caught the coronavirus, much less died.

Healthcare workers are among the essential workers most vulnerable to the virus. A study two months ago in Washington state, site of the first multiple U.S. outbreak of the virus, showed RNs made up 13 percent of the state workforce, and 37 percent of workers who tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This pandemic is only getting worse,” NNU said. “That means nurses and patients will be in even more danger the longer we work without these protections. The Senate must require hospitals to provide PPE and ensure our workplaces are safe so we can continue to fight the pandemic.”


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