Nurses did. In January, NNU’s global arm, Global Nurses United (GNU), sent a letter to the World Health Organization demanding the highest level of protections for nurses and healthcare providers around the world. Since then, 27 GNU affiliate nations have come together in global solidarity on a COVID-19 webinar, to share information and stand together in solidarity for change.

And National Nurses United has continued its demands of the Trump administration, Congress, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), asking them to step up protections. When the CDC did just the opposite, weakening its guidelines on health care worker protections, NNU nurses responded by holding a national COVID-19 day of action on March 10, from Georgia and Illinois to California. NNU also petitioned the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to adopt an emergency temporary standard on emerging infectious diseases and launched a petition demanding Congress do everything in its power to protect nurses, which quickly earned hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Thankfully, nurses are used to standing up for lifesaving protections for our patients, when hospital employers and elected officials do not. But we all face a grave situation: When nurses and health care workers are reduced to using bandanas against a deadly virus, we don’t know how many of us will be able to remain at our patients’ sides when we become infected ourselves. We know we are not expendable, and are likely the only buffer between potential healing or horrible suffering and perhaps death for thousands of patients.

We live in a country with a health care system that profits off of human suffering, with no real labor protections, with outrageous inequality, environmental injustice, racial injustice, and so many more threats to our patients. COVID-19 just amplifies existing societal plagues, and fighting this pandemic isn’t enough to protect people and save lives. We can’t go back to business as usual.

We have to keep fighting for a world that values life first.