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Nurses At Coronavirus-Only Hospital Plead For Better Protection

BOSTON (CBS) - Health care workers at Carney Hospital in Dorchester feel especially vulnerable because it's a facility set up to treat only coronavirus patients. "I had a nervous feeling," said Nurse Karen Skarbek, who worked in the isolated testing tent the first day it opened. She said she and other nurses want the best protection available, and they don't always get it.

"At any given time when you're going into a COVID patient, many times what they're exhibiting, are respiratory problems. They cough, and particles are out in the air," said Skarbek. "You really never quite know 100 percent if that's going to happen when you're in the room."

What she often wears, is a cloth surgical mask with no filter, and says N95 masks aren't always available.

Carney Hospital
Carney Hospital in Dorchester (WBZ-TV)

Nicholas Puleo, a spokesperson for Steward Health Care, which runs the hospital, said, "our policy on personal protective equipment—including the proper use of masks—adheres strictly to the science-based guidelines issued by the CDC." Puleo said since coronavirus is not airborne, and is transmitted through droplets, an N95 mask is sometimes, but not always, necessary.

"I typically always have a surgical mask, unless I'm seeing a patient suspected of COVID-19 and coughing," said Dr. Jon Santiago, who works in the emergency room at Boston Medical Center. He said the unknown nature of coronavirus has medical workers erring on the side of full protection. "I get completely geared up. I'm talking about face shield, N95 mask, gown, gloves, double gloves, you name it," he said.

Dr. Santiago, who is also a state representative, said the new stash of masks that arrived on the Patriots jet Thursday, and a mask sterilizing machine heading to Massachusetts will make a big difference.

Is the state ready for the expected peak? "Right now, no, but my hope is that we're scaling up to get there," Dr. Santiago said.

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