Health care workers saw shortages of protective equipment last into May: poll

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Health care workers faced shortages of face masks, hand sanitizer, medical gowns and other supplies needed to keep themselves safe from COVID-19 in early May, according to a new Washington Post-Ipsos poll released Wednesday.

Sixty-six percent of health care workers said their workplaces still face shortages of the respirator masks that are most effective at blocking airborne particles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), acknowledging the shortages, has directed health workers without respirators to use surgical masks instead, even though those are less protective against viruses.

But 44 percent of health workers cited shortages of surgical masks as well.

The pandemic has created a shortage of key medical supplies, particularly in the U.S., which sources most of those products from China.

Those shortages have been felt by American health workers since March and hadn’t abated by early May, according to the poll, which surveyed 278 health workers.

Thirty-five percent of health workers said their workplaces were short of face shields; 26 percent cited shortages of eye protection and 36 percent said they lacked enough protective or isolation medical gowns. Twenty-two percent of health workers said they didn’t have enough gloves, and 35 percent faced shortages of cleaning supplies at their workplaces. 

The continued shortages come even as President Trump and his administration insist they are keeping up with the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.

Trump disagreed with a nurse who visited the Oval Office earlier this month when she said access to PPE was “sporadic.”

“Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people,” Trump said.

The CDC said in a report last month it was aware of 9,200 health workers who had tested positive for COVID-19 but stressed that number was likely to be an undercount. 

A report from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general released last month found “severe” shortages of COVID-19 tests for health workers and “widespread” shortfalls of protective equipment.

Trump called those findings “wrong.”

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