The country’s largest union of registered nurses called on the Biden administration to take action against rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations amid the surge of immune-evasive Omicron subvariant BA.5 in a letter on Wednesday, the day before President Biden tested positive for the coronavirus.
In their letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Nurses United (NNU) critiqued the agency’s standards on masking and quarantining, calling the current guidelines “insufficient to prevent transmission of Covid-19.”
The latest CDC recommendations, NNU contends, tell Americans to mask up too late and leave quarantine too early — missteps they say “will prolong the pandemic.”
A CDC metric that suggests indoor masking only when risk levels in a community reach a “high” point skips critical preventative windows, when risks are lower, the nurses said.
“Waiting until hospitalizations are increasing before recommending universal masking indoors in public means that the opportunity to prevent those hospitalizations was missed.”
NNU lambasted the CDC’s five-day quarantine guideline for individuals who test positive, saying data shows more than half of COVID-19 patients are still testing positive when that window closes.
“Approximately half of infected individuals will remain infectious but no longer be in isolation under the current guidance. Therefore, we urge the CDC to follow the science and return to an isolation guidance of ten days following a positive test or symptom onset.”
The union also suggested updating current post-exposure guidelines, which do not require quarantine for the fully vaccinated or for those who have been infected within the last 90 days, to recommend isolation after COVID-19 exposure of vaccination status or prior infection.
That’s because waning immunity over time and increasingly immune-evasive variants and subvariants mean vaccination alone may not be enough to stave off infection, NNU wrote. The nurses cited data suggesting reinfection is possible before the 90-day window closes for those who have been sick.
Taking these steps to prevent transmission also prevents long COVID — which patients are increasingly presenting with, the nurses said.
NNU argued that “the risks of long-term impacts of Covid-19 have not been effectively communicated to the public” by the CDC and that “the omission of long Covid as a serious health threat leaves the public harmfully uninformed.”
The Hill has reached out to the CDC for comment.
The letter came a day before White House announced that Biden had tested positive for the coronavirus. Biden has received two booster shots, and his symptoms are said to be “very mild.” He plans to isolate at the White House and is taking the antiviral Paxlovid.