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Nurses Are Facing Coronavirus Without Enough Protective Gear

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Across the country, medical professionals are working to save the lives of people suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

In many places,a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) means that that nurses must reuse masks and do without certain protective measures.

Here's what two nurses told NPR's Morning Edition about what it's been like to treat coronavirus patients.

Jaci Cederberg, a nurse in Santa Rosa, Calif.:

"We're being rationed masks. I've worn my N95 [respirator] for four days. ... I'm putting this home-sewn mask over my N95 just to protect my N95 to keep it lasting longer, even though it's already expired. ... We're using our own goggles, like ski goggles. ... If you look at the other countries, they are legit in hazmat suits.

"It just feels so wrong and so unfair that it has come to this for us. Because we want to take care of everyone. We do. But not having the equipment to do this right now – I haven't slept well ... I can't eat."

Seth Fikkert, a nurse at the Providence Regional Medical Center near Seattle:

"Initially these masks were supposed to be single use. And even within the first week, they were asking us to use them multiple times with the same patient."

"[People suffering from the coronavirus] are very isolated in these rooms and their caregivers come in looking like the character from E.T. And you can just sense the fear and uncertainty that they have.

"So you have this weird mix of I think just real fear — it's scary. And then you're looking at this other human being who is dealing with their own reality ... they're not even sure yet if they have it. It's intense, it's surreal, but it's also very real. It's a very human moment. We're both looking at each other. We're both scared."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.