Hospitals Struggle To Find Enough Protective Gear For Doctors, Nurses

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Hospitals Struggle To Find Enough Protective Gear For Doctors, Nurses
States with the highest numbers of coronavirus cases are already dangerously low on key supplies.
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As the number of coronavirus patients continues to rise, hospitals are struggling to find enough protective gear to keep the doctors and nurses treating those patients safe. 

"Typically we might use an N95 mask once in a normal, normal flu season. ... Now we've been asked to use those up to five times during a shift," Ron Kraus said. 

Hospital staff wear personal protective equipment, or PPE, while treating coronavirus patients, and N95 masks are a key part of that.

CDC guidelines say health care workers should wear a face mask, eye protection, gloves and a clean gown when caring for any known or suspected coronavirus patients. Wearing an N95 mask is especially important for any kind of procedure that's likely to cause a patient to sneeze or cough.

Ron Kraus is an ER clinical nurse specialist in the Midwest and the president-elect of the Emergency Nurses Association. He said everyone caring for a patient uses the same level of PPE, but they are taking precautions to minimize exposure and "bundle their care."

"Try to think ahead and do as many things as you can do while you're in that room, while you put the PPE on one time, so you don't have to go back in to do menial tasks."

The U.S. has a Strategic National Stockpile of key medical supplies for emergencies just like this. State governors submit requests to the federal government, and if approved, the supplies are shipped out within 12 hours. 

"In the stockpile right now, there are some 12 million N95 respirators and some 30 million surgical masks. It sounds like high numbers. What's very disconcerting are estimates that the demand might be much higher than that," said Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

States with the highest numbers of coronavirus cases are already dangerously low on key supplies. Officials across the country need to assess not only the national stockpile, but also any regional or local inventory that can be shared.  

"In short, this is where communication and coordination of what we have and what we need is really important," Koh said. 

"The biggest concern for me is the safety of our team members. All the frontline staff, the safety is paramount, and having the ability and the supplies to make sure that they can do their job confidently," Kraus said. 

Contains footage from CNN