Nurses call out CDC for voting on mask guidance before weighing public comment

The nation's largest union of registered nurses is criticizing a CDC committee for planning to vote on updated infection control guidance for healthcare settings without reviewing public comment. 

The CDC's Isolation Precautions Guidance has not been updated in 16 years, and the agency's Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee is slated to vote on revisions Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, though written public comments are being accepted through Nov. 6. National Nurses United has previously expressed concern over the draft guidance that, if finalized, would put surgical masks on par with N95s. 

The CDC's advisory committee released a draft of its proposals in June, which concluded there is no difference in protection offered by N95s compared to surgical masks. In response, NNU delivered a petition supported by 45 organizations that called the proposed updates "anti-science" and failed to recognize the aerosol transmission of respiratory pathogens. At the time, the CDC told news outlets it welcomes feedback and clarified the proposed standards were not final. 

In advance of the Nov. 2 meeting, NNU condemned the CDC's HICPAC for not giving the public an opportunity to review the draft guidance in full, which was not made public ahead of the latest meetings. The union had hoped the committee would consider concerns raised after the initial draft guidelines were released in June. It's unclear if concerns were addressed, as the draft proposals were not published in full ahead of the November meetings. 

"Employers and other government agencies across the country and around the world frequently reference the guidance," the union said in a statement. "Despite the critical importance of this document, the CDC/HICPAC has limited oral comments at the public meeting and is only accepting written public comment until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6. HICPAC is planning to vote before giving the opportunity to review and respond to the draft." 

According to a CDC webpage that explains HICPAC's review process, the committee is curently in the stage where revised guidelines are being presented and discussed. Once members vote on whether draft guidelines are ready for the agency's review, members will weigh public discussion and presented data. The guidelines would then potentially be revised based on public comments, according to the CDC's process.


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