Over 200 protests held nationwide as nurses demand better protection amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Registered nurses who belong to National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association will hold more than 200 protests across the nation Wednesday -- including in Southern California -- to demand greater protections for health care providers and their patients.

The nurses say they are advocating for their patients at all levels. Inside hospital walls, nurses want employers to protect nurses, other health care workers, and patients by following proper infection control practices, which include providing optimal personal protective equipment and a safe workload of patients.

Outside hospital walls, nurses want Congress to help struggling households by urgently passing legislation to extend COVID economic benefits that expired in July, for the government to invest in the public health of American communities, and "for a dismantling of the structural racism that prematurely and disproportionately ends the lives of Black, Indigenous, people of color whether it is by COVID or at the hands of police violence."

RNs are demanding that the Senate pass the HEROES Act, a pending bill they are backing that would not only protect health care and other essential workers by ensuring domestic production of PPE through the Defense Production Act and by mandating that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration establish an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases, but also provide economic help in the form of cash payments, extended unemployment benefits, and daycare subsidies through the end of 2020 to families on the brink.

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RNs in Orange County see daily the prioritization of profits over patients through local hospitals' management practices. For example, the simple act of testing all patients for COVID-19 would result in positive COVID-19 patients being placed into units designed to care for these patients. Because this is not happening, nurses are not being given the proper PPE while unknowingly caring for positive patients, causing significant exposure to RNs and patients.

At a small community hospital in Orange County, 16 of the 22 RNs who tested positive for COVID-19 are from low-risk units such as telemetry and med/surg, according to a union statement.

"For the nurses who work three to five 12-hour shifts weekly, the need for full protection with proper PPE would certainly mitigate the constant exposure they face. Showing up to work to care for patients should not be a COVID-19 exposure roll of the dice for nurses, while employers and the government fail to take all measures to ensure the demand for PPE is met, said nurse Carolyn Stoddard of West Anaheim Medical Center.

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"Contact tracing for COVID-19 is being mismanaged in our facility. Nurses are not being notified immediately of their exposure to COVID-19 from coworkers or patients. It's unsafe for patients and staff," said nurse Clarissa Cruz, chief nurse representative of the California Nurses Association at Kindred Westminster Hospital in Westminster.

Rallies and other form of protests, including a silent protest at one medical facility, are scheduled throughout the region. In L.A. County, the sites include Southern California Hospital on Delmas Terrace in Culver City; Little Company of Mary Torrance on Torrance Boulevard in Torrance; Alhambra Hospital Medical Center on Raymond Avenue in Alhambra; Kindred Hospital Baldwin Park on Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park; and Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center on Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood.

Health Care Workers Protest Lack Of PPE In Southern California

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In Orange County, rallies will take place outside Anaheim Global Medical Center on South Anaheim Blvd in Anaheim; Chapman Global Medical Center on East Chapman Avenue in Orange; South Coast Global Medical Center on South Bristol Street in Santa Ana; West Anaheim Medical Center on West Orange Avenue in Anaheim; Kindred Hospital Westminster on Hospital Circle in Westminster.

A nurses rally is also scheduled tonight outside Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.