Give proper protective equipment to coronavirus screeners on the first line of defense

Give proper protective equipment to coronavirus screeners on the first line of defense

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Iris Cong started this petition to Center for Disease Control and

By now, we've all heard of the global outbreak of COVID-19 which has infected nearly 100,000 people worldwide and taken thousands of lives.

One of the key forces that is currently facilitating detection/containment of this virus in the US comes from workers from institutions such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) who have been recruited to major airports to screen potentially at-risk passengers returning from international travel. During these screenings, the workers not only take the temperature of these passengers, but also provide them with the phone number to call if they experience symptoms, and record their seat number (to inform nearby passengers in case they later test positive). This is crucial to the detection and containment of this deadly virus, as a coronavirus patient calling the correct number for medical assistance allows the healthcare workers to come to their house prepared with personal protective equipment (PPE). Neighboring passengers can also more quickly self-isolate when they are identified and informed. Indeed, when Boston's first case of coronavirus was identified in late January, the man who had traveled to Wuhan called for medical assistance the day after he landed. My friend's roommate was immediately told that he had been on the same flight as the patient, but also that he was not one of the nearby passengers. With this rapid response, Massachusetts did not have further coronavirus cases for over a month.

Unfortunately, the CDC has not been adequately protecting their workers on the first line of defense. While many workers at large airports now have access to goggles and ordinary surgical masks, only few get access to the more effective N95 respiratory masks. What's more infuriating is that they are not allowed to use protective gowns unless they are seeing a patient or passenger from Wuhan, because the CDC believes this would cause too much public fear; instead, they wear their own clothes, and are expected to do laundry each night at their hotels (many traveled across the nation to serve their duty). This policy has not changed despite the fact that at least one coronavirus screener at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has tested positive for COVID-19. Furthermore, as we all know by now, there are now passengers carrying coronavirus coming from all parts of the world, not just Wuhan. Such lack of personal protective equipment is particularly dangerous to these screeners, and also to the general public when they come into contact with hundreds or thousands of passengers daily.

In this petition, I am calling for CDC and government officials in charge of the coronavirus outbreak management to show more respect for and protect the workers on the first line of defense by giving them proper PPE and allowing them to wear it whenever they are on duty and screening passengers at our major airports, not just when they come into contact with some "special" set of people. Such action will also directly help in preventing the spread of coronavirus in our community. Please join in signing this petition to help keep our coronavirus screeners and the broader public healthy and safe.

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At 5,000 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!