Health Care

Nurses union warns of shortage in protective gear amid new coronavirus surge

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One of the nation’s biggest nurses unions on Tuesday warned that recent spikes in coronavirus cases have caused a corresponding shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE), echoing shortages that emerged early in the pandemic.

“We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, told The Associated Press, citing member surveys. “They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”

Supplies have improved compared to March and April, when states were forced to compete with one another for equipment, but there remains a short supply for some nonacademic and rural hospitals, Aisha Terry, an associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, told the AP.

“I think overall, production, distribution and access has improved,” she said, adding, “the fear is that we will become complacent.”

The DuPage County, Ill., health department last week sent a letter to Congress saying county hospitals have been forced to reuse PPE “in ways that were not originally intended and are probably less safe than the optimal use of PPE.”

Meanwhile, House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D) last week released a memo expressing concerns about the PPE supply chain based on interviews with medical equipment distribution companies.

“Industry representatives told Committee staff that even though the severity of the coronavirus became clear in the first months of 2020, the Trump Administration offered no guidance on PPE procurement or distribution during that time,” the memo states. “Despite repeated requests from the industry for advice on critical questions, such as how to prioritize distribution, the Administration did little more than collect information from companies.”

Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who has oversight of pandemic-related supplies for the White House, said last week in Congressional testimony that fewer than 25 percent of states had a supply of less than 30 days, according to the AP.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Coronavirus nurses Nursing personal protection equipment PPE

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