USW health care worker testifies about COVID-19 impact

Briita Noyes, a Registered Nurse (RN) at a long-term care facility in Minnesota and USW steward, spoke out this week about some of the health and safety issues affecting her industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. House of Representatives Means and Ways Committee held a listening session on Dec. 9, 2020, with workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Several union members, including Noyes, shared their struggles and concerns dealing with this unprecedented health crisis.

“When the pandemic hit, it felt like we were waiting for a storm,” said Noyes. “As PPE shortages became a reality, our facility began rationing masks and our staff were forced to wear a single surgical mask for the entire week.” 

Noyes spoke on how management downplayed staff concerns about contracting and spreading the virus, hurting workers who were already strained before the pandemic hit. 

“Burnout is a very real issue, and staffing, as a result, is a revolving door,” said Noyes. “We need a better system in place.” 

The listening session came as COVID-19 cases surge across the country, straining hospitals and putting health care workers at greater risk. 

Noyes said that one action that could make a big difference for workers is for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enact a safety standard that workplaces would be required to follow during the pandemic.

“The population we serve is not receiving adequate care, let alone the care they deserve,” said Noyes.

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