Healthcare workers lined up rows of white nurses' shoes on the Capitol lawn to represent each nurse in the U.S. who's died from COVID-19.

By Renee Cherry
July 24, 2020
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As the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. continues to rise, National Nurses United created a powerful visual display of how many nurses in the country have died of COVID-19. The union for registered nurses arranged 164 pairs of white clogs on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C., one pair for every RN who's died from the virus so far in the U.S.

Alongside the display of clogs—a common footwear choice in the profession—National Nurses United held a memorial, reciting the name of each nurse who's died of COVID-19 in the U.S. and calling for the Senate to pass the HEROES Act. Among many other measures, the HEROES Act would provide a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans and expand the Paycheck Protection Program, which is providing loans and grants to small businesses and non-profits.

National Nurses United specifically highlighted measures in the HEROES Act that could impact nurses' working conditions. Namely, the legislation would authorize the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, a federal agency of the U.S. Department of Labor) to enforce certain infectious disease standards that would protect workers from the coronavirus. Additionally, the HEROES Act would establish a Medical Supplies Response Coordinator who would organize the supply and distribution of medical equipment. (Related: One ICU Nurse Swears By This $26 Tool for Improving Her Skin and Mental Health)

As the coronavirus has spread, the U.S. (and the world) has contended with personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, sparking the hashtag #GetMePPE among healthcare workers. Facing a lack of gloves, face masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, etc., many have resorted to reusing single-use face masks or wearing a bandana instead. Almost 600 healthcare workers in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, including nurses, doctors, paramedics, and hospital staff, according to an estimation from Lost on the Frontline, a project launched by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News. "How many of these frontline nurses would be here today if they had had the equipment they needed to do their jobs safely?" Zenei Cortez, RN, president of National Nurses United, stated in a press release about the Capitol lawn memorial. (Related: Why This Nurse-Turned-Model Joined the Frontline of the COVID-19 Pandemic)

This probably isn't the first instance of nurses participating in activism that you've heard about recently. Many nurses have also supported the Black Lives Matter movement by marching alongside peaceful protesters and providing first aid care for people hit with pepper spray or tear gas. (Related: "The Seated Nurse" Shares Why the Healthcare Industry Needs More People Like Her)

As for the fight for access to PPE, National Nurses United's display on the Capitol lawn drew much-needed attention to the critical issue while paying tribute to the nurses who've lost their lives. If you want to support the cause, you can sign the group's petition to the Senate in support of the HEROES Act.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it’s possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.

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