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Nurses dealing with COVID-19 concerned about lack of protective gear

One person told WWLTV's Katie Moore they witnessed a manager "discouraging staff from wearing PPE since we've all probably had (COVID-19) anyway."

NEW ORLEANS —

They are the front line of this crisis: the nurses who are so often hands-on with patients positive for COVID-19.

But for weeks, some of them have felt unprepared by their employers to handle the surge of patients that are passing through New Orleans area hospitals in waves.

WWLTV's Katie Moore has spoken with several nurses and staffers working in major New Orleans hospitals, all too fearful of losing their jobs or their licenses to be identified.

They said infection control has been lacking, especially because of the shortage of personal protective equipment or PPE.

One person told WWLTV's Katie Moore they witnessed a manager "discouraging staff from wearing PPE since we've all probably had (COVID-19) anyway."

Thea Ducrow is the executive director of the Louisiana State Nurses Association.

"I started getting confidential phone calls three weeks ago," Ducrow said. "The nurses are concerned that they do not have enough PPE, and they're expected to care for patients who are contagious."

She recently surveyed more than 700 nurses state-wide about their concerns, and the top concern is a lack of PPE.

"They're worried they're going to contract it," Ducrow said. "One thing they've told me is — let's say they're serving in an emergency department, and they're servicing multiple patients. And they're serving someone with a broken arm; they don't' want someone with a broken arm to go home with the coronavirus disease."

Some nurses said they're wearing the same protective masks to treat both, reusing masks at times. Many report getting just one or two masks per day — sometimes the kind that filters out viruses; other times, a surgical mask that doesn't.

"Is that happening? yes," Ducrow said. "The nurses are telling me that, and the nurses are telling me that some of them are not getting an N95 mask for their shift. They're getting surgical masks, and while that's better than nothing, it's not ideal."

Other times, they're getting N95 masks that don't fit properly and can allow germs in, and all of it is taking its toll. 

"Are they getting sick? yes. Some of them are getting sick," Ducrow said. "They're worried about getting sick."

The good news is truckloads of donations public and private are helping to ease their concerns, alongside an expected surge of patients in the coming days.

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