More and more patients are streaming into hospitals with COVID-19. This means more and more health care workers are also at risk. And yet, the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses continues to dwindle. Over the past few weeks, I've spoken with health care workers who are increasingly concerned about not just their patients' health - but their own.
"There is not enough PPE," one nurse in Northeast Ohio told Townhall last week. "What masks we do have are locked up in management offices and not available. We are also told that we are not to wear a mask unless occupational health directs us, on a case-by-case basis. Yet when we come in to work, we are greeted with people in full gowns, gloves and masks just to take temperatures."
This nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, said they were notified by email and were offered no chance to respond.
"They rationalized based on the CDC's lower standards," she explained. "It was ordered to us as non-negotiable."
More than one health care worker told me that the CDC changed its guidelines because it realized it had a shortage of N95 masks.
A recent study revealed that 16 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Ohio were health care workers, a statistic that this particular nurse said she is "not at all surprised" by. While Ohio hospitals have visitor bans, she says that they "are letting multiple exceptions go by daily."
"The other day, both of my patients had a visitor each," she explained. "Neither one was near end of life or a pediatric patient. I find that if the visitor puts up an argument, they get their way. One of them even told me she just finished self-isolating herself because her brother in law was diagnosed with coronavirus. She didn't even sanitize her hands when she came in, despite being asked to do so."
The nurse says she "absolutely" fears for her health.
Likewise, in one hospital in Utah, nurses are having to write their names down on their masks, put them in a bag, and reuse them the next day since the CDC changed its guidelines and approved multi-patient, all-day use of masks. They even approved the use of "homemade masks," one health care worker told me, and they are concerned for their health. Again, they asked to remain anonymous.
"They're putting our families in danger, and they're putting our co-workers in danger," Kristine Fry, a nurse at Kaiser Santa Clara, told NBC News.
Other California-based nurses have sent formal complaints to the state's occupational safety department, Cal OSHA.
Innovators are now stepping in to help hospitals adapt to these guidelines. For example, new technology is on the way that can clean thousands of PPE equipment at a time.