As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the U.S., nurses and other public health experts are warning that the country\u0026#039;s public health system is unprepared to handle a pandemic and calling on the federal government to take more urgent steps to protect the American people from the disease.\u0026nbsp;\u0022At the moment, we have a fragmented and broken public health infrastructure which is woefully unprepared for COVID-1.\u0022—National Nurses United\u0022As the nation braces to confront the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that is quickly spreading across the world, National Nurses United, the largest union for registered nurses in the United States, has been closely monitoring the situation in our hospitals,\u0022 NNU presidents and registered nurses Deborah Burger, Zenei Cortez, and Jean Ross wrote Monday in an open letter (pdf) to Vice President Mike Pence. \u0022It is critical that the federal government take quick and meaningful steps to urgently protect the public from this outbreak.\u0022The letter, which called the nation\u0026#039;s public health system \u0022woefully unprepared\u0022 for the pandemic, recommends the administration act to protect health workers and to ensure a vaccine for the virus is provided for free to the public. The nurses also noted that the existing crisis was being exacerbated by public health cuts.\u0026nbsp;\u0022At the moment, we have a fragmented and broken public health infrastructure which is woefully unprepared for COVID-19,\u0022 the nurses said.\u0026nbsp;Specifically, the NNU demanded the Trump administration and Congress implement the following policies immediately:Ensure that all nurses and health care workers receive the highest level of protection in their workplaces, as determined by the precautionary principle, which means erring on the side of safety and taking action even before you know something is unsafe.Improve the Centers for Disease Control screening criteria and testing capacity to ensure prompt recognition of and response to new cases.Promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect health care workers from emerging infectious diseases as soon as possible.Ensure that any vaccine or treatment that is developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars is provided to the public for free.Act immediately to pass an emergency spending package to fully fund the response to this outbreak, including dedicated funds for protective equipment for workers, temporary paid sick leave, and coverage of all treatment, care, and services for people with potential COVID-19 infection.As\u0026nbsp;Common Dreams reported Monday, critics have pilloried the government\u0026#039;s response to the outbreak thus far for seeming to put the happiness of President Donald Trump over public health needs.\u0022All needed tests, treatment, and vaccines must be made free for all.\u0022—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)That prioritization of the president\u0026#039;s feelings over proactive measures to address the outbreak has reportedly continued. According to the New York Times,\u0026nbsp;Defense Secretary Mark Esper last week instructed U.S. military commanders in bases around the world \u0022not to make any decisions related to the coronavirus that might surprise the White House or run afoul of President Trump\u0026#039;s messaging on the growing health challenge.\u0022During a meeting on the coronavirus Monday, Trump asked a group of pharmaceutical CEOs if a vaccine would \u0022make you better quicker,\u0022 indicating the president does not fully grasp that a vaccine would prevent, not treat, the virus.\u0026nbsp;TRUMP asks a pharmaceutical CEO: \u0022This would be a combination of a vaccine and also it will -- put it in a different way -- make you better, quicker?\u0022 pic.twitter.com/N7Wti1UByC— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 2, 2020Meanwhile, the associated costs of getting tested for the coronavirus are nearing $4,000 for some patients. In a press conference Monday evening, Trump\u0026#039;s\u0026nbsp;Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seem Verma said that she was unclear on what costs associated with the testing Medicare and Medicaid would and would not cover.In a press conference Monday evening, Trump\u0026#039;s\u0026nbsp;Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seem Verma said that she was unclear on what costs associated with the testing Medicare and Medicaid would and would not cover.It is WILD that in the middle of a global health emergency American\u0026#039;s on Medicare and Medicaid are being told the government has to review what will and won\u0026#039;t be covered in terms of treatment.\u0026nbsp;pic.twitter.com/XZrQkwIc3Q— nikki mccann ramírez (@NikkiMcR)\u0026nbsp;March 2, 2020The prohibitive cost of testing, health professionals have warned, risks infected people staying in the general population without treatment.Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said Tuesday that the situation was unacceptable.\u0026nbsp;\u0022Profiting during an outbreak is not only cruel—it threatens public health,\u0022 said Sanders. \u0022All needed tests, treatment, and vaccines must be made free for all.\u0022The U.S. government put a family in mandatory isolation. Now they\u0026#039;re left with a $3,900 surprise hospital bill.Profiting during an outbreak is not only cruel—it threatens public health. All needed tests, treatment, and vaccines must be made free for all. https://t.co/4MRQwyuHlR— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 3, 2020Testing itself is running into problems. One woman from Seattle, who claimed to be a health professional, recounted on Twitter her efforts to get tested—a four phone call ordeal that resulted in her being told she would not be tested despite having all the symptoms of the illness.Meanwhile, a New York City doctor told CNBC\u0026nbsp;Monday that the Centers for Disease Control is not providing his hospital with testing kits.BREAKING: NYC Doctor Turns Whisteblower - Says he\u0026#039;s been pleading to test people for #CoronaVirus. “I still do not have a #Covid19 test available to me.” pic.twitter.com/cCcCQOrU2F— Alexander Higgins - Coronavirus Updates (@kr3at) March 3, 2020Bottom line,\u0026nbsp;Vanderbilt University Medical Center preventive medicine and infectious disease professor\u0026nbsp;William Schaffner told the\u0026nbsp;Guardian, is that hospitals and healthcare workers need to be on top of strategizing for an outbreak.\u0022Every institution ought to be re-educating everybody about appropriate respiratory precautions,\u0022 said Schaffner.In an article for\u0026nbsp;Vice, emergency room doctor\u0026nbsp;Darragh O\u0026#039;Carroll reminded\u0026nbsp; Americans to trust the professionals.\u0022Listen to your public health officials, because in order to avoid a healthcare system collapse, we must all act swiftly, and with unity,\u0022 said O\u0026#039;Carroll.