Nurses say more PPE is needed

ST. PAUL — Five months after the Coronavirus first arrived in the U.S., critical supply shortages persist for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including masks and gowns.
The continuing risks faced by health care workers and the continuing shortages of PPE led the Minnesota Nurses Association to join other organizations in urging Governor Tim Walz to continue his exercise of emergency powers.
In a June 10 letter to Walz, MNA president Mary Turner, R.N., wrote:
“As a representative of over 22,000 nurses primarily in the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Nurses Association encourages you and lawmakers to extend the peacetime state of emergency that has allowed and would continue to allow the emergency response of the administrative branch to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to plague us.”
“While much has changed for ordinary citizens over the last few months, nothing has changed for nurses and healthcare workers in our state. Nurses are still being forced to wear the same, single use mask for hours after they’ve been contaminated, use the same mask between COVID patients and non COVID patients, and rely on unproven sanitizing procedures (i.e. infrared cleaning and paper bags) to assure them and their patients that their equipment is safe. Nurses are still being disciplined or fired over the use of hospital scrubs.”
“Nurses are still bringing the COVID virus home to their families and into the community because of a lack of precautions taken by health care facilities. As a result, healthcare workers are still one of the occupations most at risk for becoming infected, which at last check was still above 10 percent of all cases. Many of these workers are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who work the essential and unprotected jobs in healthcare facilities from nurses’ aides to environmental services.”
“Without the peacetime emergency, Governor Walz and [the Minnesota Department of Health] will not be able to further address these issues, make recommendations on pre-crisis standards for healthcare workers or ‘turn back the dial’ as necessary when there is a resurgence of cases and we run out of healthcare workers, equipment and hospital beds to care for COVID patients.”
Two days after MNA’s letter, on the first day of the legislature’s recent special session, Governor Walz issued an executive order to extend the COVID-19 peacetime emergency until July 13.
The Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate voted 39-29 (with three DFL votes) to prevent the extension.
But the DFL-controlled Minnesota House voted 73-61 to support the extension, allowing it to continue. (A majority vote in both Senate and House was needed to block the peacetime emergency).

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