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Wisconsin nurses say mask shortage is putting them at risk

CDC says they may have to use 

“It flies in the face of what we’ve been taught about infection control,” she said. “I don’t think anybody would say it’s appropriate to reuse these items.”Children's Hospital spokesman Andrew Brodzeller said Wednesday it makes sense that nurses might be uneasy about not switching masks but that the hospital is following federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on supply conservation."These guidelines are evolving every day. They are different than what has been typically followed under normal conditions,” he said. “It’s natural that they would have questions."Sign up for the Coronavirus Watch newsletter for the latest on COVID-19 in Wisconsin. The lack of personal protective equipment is slowing the ability to test for COVID-19, Wisconsin lawmakers said in a letter Thursday to the U.S Food and Drug Administration. Saying “Wisconsin needs your help NOW,” the state’s congressional delegation asked the FDA to direct more coronavirus testing supplies to Wisconsin, citing the “dire consequences” of a testing bottleneck at hospitals. The bipartisan letter was signed by both Wisconsin senators and the state’s seven currently serving House members.

'last resort'

In an interview, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin said that because hospitals are running out of supplies for things like swabs and protective gear and reagents for analysis of samples, the promise of testing “becomes an empty promise.”“The lack of clinic and hospital-based personal protective equipment for our health care providers is alarming,” she said. “We have Milwaukee News several hospitals that have already set up their own labs, and more are scheduled to come online in the coming days. However, they are unable to obtain the equipment and supplies necessary to complete testing, leaving a significant amount of untapped capacity.“This testing bottleneck is creating dire consequences for our hospitals and their staff," she said. "These delays only increase the risk of COVID-19 spread."Officials at Advocate Aurora said Wednesday that their facilities are taking measures to conserve protective masks and gowns and said they, too, are following the CDC guidelines. The CDC suggests hospitals try to limit the number of staff who need the highly protective N95 masks and to use other, less protective masks when possible.

The shortage is putting them at risk; CDC says they may have to use scarves as 'last resort'

Extended use of N95 masks should be reserved for limited circumstances, according to CDC guidelines. “Extended use may be implemented when multiple patients are infected with the same respiratory pathogen and patients are placed together in dedicated waiting rooms or hospital wards," the guidelines state. Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin staff and clinicians are also following conservation strategies, said hospital All Milwaukee News spokesman Stephen Schooff. The hospital has supplemented disposable gowns with industry-approved reusable gowns and is limiting the number of providers who enter the rooms of patients requiring isolation, he said. Charles de la Pena, a lab technician at Froedtert’s Wisconsin Diagnostics Laboratories, said the microbiologists testing for COVID-19 have proper gear but that others in the lab don’t.“Right now we’re not very well-prepared to deal with the situation,” de la Pena said. “We run the risk of one of the workers becoming infected and then sharing it and putting everybody out of work.”

Wisconsin nurses say the mask 

He said he requested a meeting with management nearly two weeks ago to discuss preparation, but it was put off until later this week.“It’s a little late in the process now,” he said. On Tuesday, state Health Secretary Andrea Palm said the agency received word from the federal government that Wisconsin will receive a small allotment of a variety of pieces of equipment from the strategic national stockpile. “The team is currently working through how we prioritize, how we work through the deployment of what we are receiving from the stockpile,” Palm said. “We know there are shortages of a variety of supplies," including personal protective equipment, she said. Palm said she expects the problem to continue and that the agency is doing everything to get as many supplies from the strategic national stockpile as possible.  Ryan Nilsestuen, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ chief legal counsel, said officials are surveying what each health system needs for supplies.

Scarves as 'last resort'

“I think there are real shortages that we’re hearing about, and it’s not only one type of supply,” he said. “We’ve heard about shortages of gloves and gowns and masks and face shields.”Nilsestuen said the governor’s office is responding “as best we can.”Wisconsin is eligible to receive 54,709 N95 respirator masks, 130,326 surgical masks and more than 20,000 gowns from the national stockpile, according to a March 17 letter from U.S. Senator Tammy Press Release Distribution Milwaukee Services Baldwin to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Jeff Pothof, the chief quality officer at UW Health, described what's going on at the hospital as "kind of like a controlled pandemonium."While the hospital has plans in place for dealing with situations of this kind, there has never actually been a situation of this kind."The speed by which we have to make and implement changes is blistering. Every day we're making changes, and every day the rules seem to change," he said, citing the varying travel and testing rules that have been announced. "My biggest concern is: Are we going to have enough masks to get through this?" Potthoff said.

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