Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.
National Nurses United (NNU) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) praised President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which last week released its final report to the president addressing the deep structural inequities in our country that led to the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color. The task force is recommending that the administration create a permanent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases; improve health care access for communities of color and underserved communities; address environmental factors that contribute to health disparities; and enforce anti-discrimination protections for Asian American, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian health care workers.
“The pandemic’s devastating impact on communities of color laid bare the stark inequities of our nation’s health care system—inequities that existed long before COVID-19 and prevented millions of people of color, rural and low-income Americans from accessing hospitals, medication and more,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “This task force took critical steps to address those inequities, including assessing rural hospital closures and implementing important standards to make sure health care workers are protected on the job, which in turn creates safer environments for patients to receive care, regardless of where they live.”
Mary Turner, RN, who is president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, which is an affiliate of NNU, and a member of the task force, said: “As an ICU nurse on a COVID unit since the start of the pandemic, I am thrilled that the task force is calling for a permanent OSHA COVID-19 standard that includes protections against aerosol and airborne transmission for nurses and other workers. I’ve seen too many workers die during this pandemic, and nurses of color have become infected and died at alarming rates. Nurses should never again have to fight for respiratory and other occupational health and safety protections. I am also proud of our recommendation to assess clinical practice guidelines and health-related algorithms for racial and other types of bias.”