Nurses gather on steps of White House to read names of healthcare workers who died after contracting COVID-19 on the job
As Americans around the country protest their local governments over their inability to, I don’t even know, go out to eat and get their hair done, nurses are staging a protest of their own. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, nurses gathered in front of the White House, reading the names of their colleagues who died while treating patients with coronavirus. The nurses didn’t just march the White House steps with sobering statistics, they came to demand more Personal Protective Equipment to prevent more healthcare workers from losing their life to the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control states that more than 9,000 health-care workers in the United States have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and like most COVID-19 stats in the U.S., it’s believed that the numbers of infections are actually higher, due to the widespread lack of testing. As the demonstrators read the names of nurses from all over the country, they also called upon President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act and ramp up production of N95 masks, face shields, and gloves. Supplies they should have had all along.
Healthcare workers have been demanding more protective gear for weeks now as stories surface about nurses having to reuse and make their own masks, despite the fact that the N95 respirator masks are the only ones that truly protect the nurses who wear them. Additionally, healthcare workers have — up to this point — relied on charitable donations from organizations and wealthy individuals because the government has been unable to step up provide any PPE.
“We’re here because our colleagues are dying,” Erica Jones, a nurse at Washington Hospital Center in D.C., who attended the protest on Tuesday told NBC News. “I think that right now, people think of us as heroes. But we’re feeling like martyrs, we’re feeling like we’re being left on the battlefield with nothing. And I think that we should be paying more attention to what nurses and doctors and other health care workers are going through right now.”
At the demonstration, a man was spotted holding a sign that read: “20 seconds won’t scrub ‘hero’ blood off your hands.”
“Let us remember and honor the ultimate sacrifice these nurses paid,” Melody Jones, a member of the National Nurses United union, told newscasters present at the demonstration (via The Washington Post). “We commit ourselves to fight like hell for the living.”
The nightly chants in solidarity with healthcare workers are nice and uplifting, but until the federal government can actually step in and protect the workers on the frontlines of this coronavirus pandemic, more lives will continue to be lost. Nurses shouldn’t have to choose between doing their job or staying safe.