US nurses in dire need of personal protective equipment, union says

U.S. nurses lack the personal protective equipment they need for front-line battle against the coronavirus pandemic, a union representing 150,000 nurses told ABC News.

National Nurses United calls itself the nation's largest union and professional association of registered nurses. Its executive director, Bonnie Castillo, said she is worried about nurses and their families getting ill due to a lack of personal protective equipment.

"Their heart is aching," Ms. Castillo told ABC News. "The anger is increasing because they know that there's no reason for this. They love taking care of crises. That's what they do. But to not have the protections that they need in order to do it is becoming increasingly frustrating."

Missing equipment includes head coverings, respirators and gowns.

But nurses "are being given a surgical mask, a paper gown and a pair of surgical gloves. That is not going to protect the nurse, and it's not going to protect anyone else," said Ms. Castillo.

As more nurses become sick and self-isolate as a result of not having the equipment they need, there will be even fewer of them to fight the pandemic, she said. 

She also complained that a lack of coordination among local and federal agencies and hospitals is sending mixed messages to people about when to seek care at hospital emergency rooms.

The CDC has asked people who think they are infected and experiencing mild flu-like symptoms to call their physicians before leaving home for medical care and to isolate themselves from other people in their homes. People experiencing a medical emergency should call 911, the CDC advises.


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