As health care workers across the nation continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, some nurses have started to step up to another frontline: the protests over the killing of George Floyd.
Thousands of Americans have been taking to the streets to protest the death of Floyd while in police custody, and this includes nurses who want to do their part in the fight against racial injustice.
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Several videos surfaced on social media this week showing nurses — still in their scrubs from working on the frontlines of COVID-19 — attending protests to treat those who required medical assistance.
In one clip, several nurses in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, were seen helping demonstrators who were hit with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Hearing about the death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer was especially saddening for nurses of color, Martha Dawson, president of the National Black Nurses Association told Refinery29.
“For nurses of color working on the frontlines, it’s disheartening to still realize that you’re living in a country where you’re under-appreciated and judged, first, on the color of your skin, rather than the content of your character,” she explained.
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“And you have to recognize that the concern with the death in Minnesota is just now emerging as one stressor on top of the many stressors of the pandemic,” she added.
A statement put out by National Nurses United Tuesday echoed Dawson’s sentiment: “Nurses continue to see the devastating effects of systematic racism and oppression targeting people of color in our communities,” the statement read.
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“Nurses care for all patients, regardless of their gender, race, religion or other status. We expect the same from the police,” the statement continued.
“In a hospital or clinic, when a person says ‘I can’t breathe’ they are immediately swarmed by medical professionals who triage the situation and treat them immediately. They work hard to save lives,” the organization said. “In the case of George Floyd, Minneapolis Police took no care or life-saving measures. Instead, they left him pinned down to the ground until paramedics arrived. Police ignored the pleas of George Floyd and he died.”
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Health officials and political leaders have also expressed concern that a spike in COVID-19 cases could follow the ongoing protests in the coming weeks.
Most protesters have been wearing masks, but with close conditions as demonstrators marched through streets in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City, among other cities, social distancing was nearly impossible at a time when COVID-19 is still circulating in the U.S., with around 20,000 new cases a day.
On Saturday, the New York City Health Department shared tips for protesting as safely as possible during COVID-19. They suggested wearing face masks, eye protection, using noisemakers instead of yelling and staying six feet away from other people.
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To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.