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Treasure Valley nurses reflect on the past 15 months amid new CDC guidance

In honor of National Nurses Month, nurses across the Valley are looking back on the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought and what the future holds.

BOISE, Idaho — For more than a year, nurses across Idaho and beyond have worked tirelessly, battling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emerged 15 months after the first confirmed case was reported in Idaho, nurses are commemorating National Nurses Month by reflecting on the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of moral injury in healthcare workers right now that we have got to deal with before we can get on the other side of this," said Kim Popa, a registered nurse with St. Luke's Health Center. "It was bad."

The CDC announced on May 13, 2021, that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to continue wearing a face mask in indoor and outdoor settings. The change in guidance surprised much of the public and even some nurses.

“it’s a little anxiety-provoking, for me and a lot of us who work on my team," Popa said. "Because it was so bad for so long and now they're like, 'Nope, we don't need to wear them,' and it’s like, 'Ugh, really?'” 

Anytime there is a drastic change in the CDC guidance, there will be questions and resistance from some people, according to Director or Nursing Operations at Saint Alphonsus Ben Watland.

“It seems kind of like an oxymoronic thing to do, right?" he said. "We have been educated that this is going to help us for so long. Why that change now?” 

Because of the increased number of people getting vaccinated, Watland said the risk of getting COVID-19 is dropping, which he thinks could be a reason for the CDC’s updated guidance.  Masks, however, won't be an uncommon sight.

“We are still going to do what’s best for ourselves and our patients to be safe, so it's not going to be uncommon to continue to see masks, especially in health care organizations,” Watland said.

Both Popa and Watland agreed that people should make the best decision for themselves when choosing to mask up or not, but they urge the public to remember that COVID-19 is not yet a thing of the past.

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