Nurses urge CDC to bolster infection control rules

Nurses are calling on the CDC to strengthen its infection control guidance for hospitals, which has not seen revisions for 16 years, because of concerns the agency might state surgical masks are equal to N95s in infection control measures.

The CDC's Isolation Precautions guidance has not been updated since 2007, and the agency's Healthcare Infection Control Advisory Committee met Aug. 22 to discuss revisions. The proposed draft and meeting minutes are not publicly available, but National Nurses United says the committee's presentations indicate the agency is "headed in a problematic direction."

The union said the proposed draft fails to recognize the aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory pathogens, promotes surgical masks that do not offer protection against respiratory pathogens, and looks to weaken other infection control measures. 

The committee was poised to vote on the guidance Aug. 22 but delayed voting until its next meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, according to its website. The National Nurses United said the committee did not address its concerns and cut off public comments after hearing from 14 people. 

"The draft updates are anti-science and put nurses, other healthcare workers and patients at risk by proposing that surgical masks are adequate protection against aerosol-transmitted diseases, among other alarming updates," the union's president, Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, said in a statement.

Some hospitals are bringing masks back months after the COVID-19 public health emergency — and its ties to the CDC's community transmission metric — ended. Most hospitals are responsible for their own mask rules, while the CDC recommends a "risk-based approach."

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