Coronavirus: US nurse quits over lack of protective gear

‘America is not prepared.’ US nurse quits over lack of personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19.

Healthcare workers are risking their own lives as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic, but many do so without adequate personal protective equipment they need to stay safe. 

While many medical workers are waiting for masks, gloves and other essential supplies, Imaris Vera, a trauma nurse from Chicago, managed to buy her own N95 mask to wear at work.

It is the respirator recommended by the CDC for healthcare professionals because it captures 95 percent of air particles when worn correctly.

But Vera alleges her manager told her she was not allowed to wear it, even when caring for coronavirus patients in an ICU unit. 

Vera has more than three years’ experience working in trauma, post-operative, cardiac medical, surgical, and full-time critical nursing care. But she felt she had no other option but to quit her job.

In an emotional Instagram video, she explained that she was trying to keep herself safe and looking out for “family members who have pre-existing conditions” because “they wouldn’t get a ventilator” if they contracted COVID-19 from her.

“None of the nurses are wearing masks, not even surgical masks in the hallways when they’re giving reports to each other,” Vera said.

“I had my own N95 mask, I told my manager ‘I understand we’re short on supplies but let me protect myself, let me feel safe, I have family that I have to come home to’.”

Medical workers in the US have also taken to social media to express fears and concerns about their working conditions and lack of protective gear.

“America is not prepared and nurses are not being protected,” Vera said. 

Vera’s case, however, is not singular. A nurse in Missouri also resigned after being told she could not wear an N95 mask she had bought herself. 

In California, nurses at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics could be fired immediately for wearing their own face masks, according to unions representing nurses at the facilities.

This comes after nurses there were ordered to reuse disposable protective gear to save supplies as shortages loom.

A flyer distributed by the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United read: “Kaiser has told nurses that if they’re seen wearing their personal N95 masks, they could be fired ‘on the spot’ for insubordination.” 

Commenting on this, Kaiser spokesperson Marc Brown wrote in a statement to The Intercept: “We cannot assure the integrity of protective equipment not provided by Kaiser Permanente. We want them to wear equipment we can be sure is effective.”

This report was produced and edited by Al Jazeera NewsFeed’s Seena Khalil.