By Carol Davis
New mask guidelines issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) are based on incomplete data and dangerous assumptions, National Nurses United (NNU) said in a press conference Wednesday.
Studies cited by the CDC in its announcement that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, were either not yet peer reviewed or conducted by people with a conflict of interest or by the vaccine manufacturer, Jane Thomason, an industrial hygienist for NNU, said at the press conference.
NNU has been among the most vocal critics of the CDC’s new mask guideline, which also says people no longer need to avoid crowds or large gatherings, isolate after exposure, or get tested unless they develop symptoms.
“Each study cited by the CDC was either a preprint—not yet peer reviewed—or had reported financial conflicts of interest by authors, except for one,” Thomason said.
One study the CDD cited was from Israel, which has had a much different response to the pandemic and a higher vaccination rate than the United States, she said.
“This data from Israel can contribute to our understanding of vaccines but [not] to be relied upon to remove protections,” she said.
Thomason also called out the CDC’s position that if a person has been around someone with COVID-19, that person doesn’t need to stay away from others or get tested unless they have symptoms.
“The new CDC guidance dangerously assumes that mild and asymptomatic COVID cases are not a big deal,” she said. “But we know that these mild asymptomatic cases are a big part of how the virus spreads and can lead to long-term debilitating health impacts.”
She cited a large study that used databases from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that individuals who had COVID and were not hospitalized, reported excess negative health impacts impacting most major organ and regulatory systems at least six months after infection.
“We encourage everyone to get vaccinated, but by themselves, vaccines are not enough. Scientific evidence underlines the importance of implementing multiple measures to slow and stop the spread of COVID,” Thomason said. “Now is not the time to roll back protective measures.”
Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, an NNU president, warned against new COVID variants.
“No vaccine is 100% effective and there’s still so many unknowns about both the vaccines and the virus,” she said. “When you consider all these factors, it makes no sense to abandon simple and effective infection control measures, such as masking, distancing, and testing.”
Jean Ross, RN, an NNU president, urged solidarity in continuing to fight the virus because the U.S. continues to log high infection numbers and only 37% of people are vaccinated.
“We understand everyone’s desire to get back to normal [but] the science shows this is exactly the wrong time to be relaxing our multi-pronged approach to infectious disease,” Ross said. “We’re calling on the CDC to revise the dangerous guidelines and return to using the multiple measures of infection control that work.”
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.