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Protective gear shortage forcing doctors, nurses to improvise

CBS News logo CBS News 3/25/2020 CBSNews

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As the number of coronavirus cases climbs in the United States, health care workers are still facing shortages of personal protective equipment. One doctor said she's seen medical staff wearing plastic page protectors and "Halloween costumes" to cover their faces because of the shortages.  

"This is our pride and joy of taking care of anyone, anywhere, anytime, but the situation has become really desperate to the point where most of us have maybe, at best, 72 hours worth of equipment left in our hospitals," Dr. Gillian Schmitz, the vice president of the American College of Emergency Physicians told CBSN's Reena Ninan. "Some have already run out completely, and we're being forced to sort of improvise and make up equipment."

"I've seen people using the plastic protector sheets for their kids' homework to put in as a face mask. I've seen people even wearing ski goggles, Halloween costumes that were masks to try and cover up parts of their face," she said. 

a close up of a glass © Provided by CBS News Schmitz added that there's not "a whole lot of good evidence" that wearing these alternatives is safe. For example, she said, the "droplet mask" she has is not enough to protect her from patients with coronavirus. 

"It's a thin mask. If someone coughs in my face, I don't get wet, but this is not enough," she said. "It's simply a shield. It doesn't have the level of protection that we need."

Schmitz compared the situation for medical staff to going to war without armor and ammunition.

"This wouldn't be acceptable in any other field. If we were going to war, we would send people in with, you know, guns and shields and ammunition to help them win this fight," she said. 

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