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Nurses protest for protective equipment at White House

Nurses hold photos of fellow healthcare workers who have died from COVID-19. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

April 21 (UPI) -- Nurses protested Tuesday at the White House to demand President Donald Trump use the Defense Production Act to produce personal protective equipment in response to COVID-19.

The nurses are members of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the United States.

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While practicing social distancing, they read aloud the names of U.S. nurses who have died of COVID-19.

The protest aims "to call attention to the tens of thousands of health care workers nationwide who have become infected with COVID-19 due to lack of personal protective equipment," the union said in the statement.

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In response, nurses have been demanding that "Trump use his authority under the Defense Production Act to order the mass production of PPE, including N95 respirators, face shields, gowns, gloves and shoe coverings, as well as ventilators and COVID-19 testing kits," the union said. "NNU is calling on Congress to mandate the DPA's use to produce the equipment and supplies health care workers need to care for COVID-19 patients as well as to conduct mass testing that is required to control the spread of the virus."

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Trump invoked the DPA in late March to push General Motors to produce ventilators and has also used it more recently for COVID-19 testing swabs, but he has urged hospitals and states to take the lead in getting other supplies.

The NNU petitioned the Trump administration's Occupational Safety and Health Administration in early March for an emergency temporary standard to provide healthcare workers "optimal PPE," the union added, but never received a response.

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"With no federal health and safety standard, nurses and other health care workers in many hospitals across the country have not been provided with adequate PPE to protect them from exposure to the virus," the union statement said.

Now, "the NNU is demanding Congress include a mandatory OSHA emergency standard in its next COVID-19 legislative package," the union statement said.

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