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Coronavirus Impact: Concerns raised over nurses' protective gear

Some nurses are worried about lack of N95 masks
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Posted at 6:06 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 07:57:13-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The big concern for many health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic is their protective gear.

“It's a scary time with not knowing exactly what's coming at us,” said Jay O’Brien, a local nurse and a representative for the Sharp nurses’ union.

“A lot of nurses are very concerned that we don't have the proper equipment. The biggest concern is the lack of N95 masks,” O’Brien said. The masks block at least 95 percent of airborne particles, but there is now a shortage due to the pandemic.

Nurses at UC San Diego said they had been wearing N95 masks when interacting with a suspected COVID-19 patient, but the Centers for Disease Control has loosened their guidelines. Now, they are used only during more complicated procedures, such as intubations.

UCSD nurse Tiffani Zalinski wrote over the weekend on Facebook that the N95 respirators were "confiscated by the administration and were being distributed on a case-by-case basis."

She was upset over the change, saying she works with patients "fresh out of surgery" and the N95 respirator were “the only thing that is going to protect" her. Zalinski adds she "will not willingly be exposed to this disease and inadvertently spread it to others if I have choices and means to protect myself and you."

A UCSD spokesperson told Team 10 the new guidelines still represent the "appropriate standards of care."

O'Brien said he understands the CDC change. “If we burn through all the N95s now, if things get really bad as this crisis continues, then we're going to run out and have nothing at all,” O’Brien said.

“I have no reason to think it's going to get better very soon, hopefully the precautions that we're taking are going to slow things down so that we can safely take care of people,” he added.