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Nurses facing coronavirus crisis concerned about lack of protective equipment

Nurses throughout the nation lack protective equipment, such

Nurses throughout the nation lack protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, and goggles, during the coronavirus outbreak, nursing unions say. Credit: Istock

Regional and national nurses unions said their members were being put in danger during the coronavirus outbreak because of the lack of protective equipment, such as masks. 

Their concerns come as New York also seeks to address the lack of medical equipment while anticipating an increase in patients testing positive for the virus.

"Our registered nurse members are reporting shortages or personal protective equipment," said Carl Ginsburg, a spokesman for the New York State Nurses Association, which represents 43,000 nurses statewide. "Should a surge of COVID-19 occur in the next two to three weeks, that shortage will result in serious health risks for nurses and will undercut care for patients."

Speaking to reporters Friday, New York. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo exhorted businesses in the state to make more of the equipment needed by doctors and nurses, saying the state would "pay a premium" for it. He and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also have called on the federal government to assist localities in getting those supplies.

AFT, the nation’s second-largest nurses union based in Washington, D.C., said nurses were under “grave threat” without adequate personal protective equipment, such as impermeable gowns, gloves and goggles.

Because of the shortage, the AFT added, nurses in hard-hit areas are being asked to reuse respirators and in some cases downgrade their level of protection from a respirator to a surgical mask.

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The shortage has grown so dire, the union said, that some nurses are making their own masks from fabric, plastic and coffee filters.

“Nurses from across the country have reached out to us to tell their horror stories of making homemade masks to treat patients who tested positive for the coronavirus because their hospitals have either run out of N95 respirators or they didn’t make the ration cut," said Randi Weingarten, the AFT’s president.

“Asking nurses to use bandannas or scarves rather than deploying every asset of the federal government to help them is just immoral,” she said.

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