'This is not the ticket dispenser at the deli counter; it's a public health emergency': A California nurse in self-quarantine condemns delays in coronavirus testing
A nurse in self-quarantine penned an anonymous open letter, condemning the delay in coronavirus testing for healthcare workers who contract the disease. The nurse wrote she started feeling sick after caring for a patient who tested positive for the virus. She said she was wait-listed for receiving a coronavirus testing kit, as the CDC was prioritizing running samples by severity of the illness with so few tests available to give out per day. "This is not the ticket dispenser at the deli counter; it's a public health emergency!" she wrote in the letter. "I am a registered nurse, and I need to know if I am positive before going back to caring for patients."
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A California nurse who went into self-quarantine after developing symptoms fitting that of the novel coronavirus — which causes the disease named COVID-19 — condemned the delay in testing for healthcare workers, saying she can't protect her patients if she can't protect herself. The nurse, who works at a northern California Kaiser facility, anonymously penned an open letter after she claimed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put her on a wait list for a coronavirus testing kit. "This is not the ticket dispenser at the deli counter; it's a public health emergency!" she wrote in the letter. "I am a registered nurse, and I need to know if I am positive before going back to caring for patients." The nurse wrote she started feeling sick after caring for a patient who tested positive for the virus. "I volunteered to be on the care team for this patient, who we knew was positive," the nurse wrote. "I did this because I had all the recommended protective gear and training from my employer. I did this assuming that if something happened to me, of course I too would be cared for." She said the CDC was prioritizing running samples by severity of the illness, since there are so few tests available to give out per day. However, the nurse emphasized that health care officials more immediate results in order to get back to caring for their patients. "I am appalled at the level of bureaucracy that's preventing nurses from getting tested," she wrote. "That is a health care decision my doctor and my county health department agree with. Delaying this test puts the whole community at risk." As of Thursday, the death toll for the coronavirus surpassed 3,300, with nearly 98,000 cases confirmed worldwide. In the US, there are at least 221 cases, with 12 deaths — 11 in Washington state and one in California.
.@NationalNurses President Deborah Burger reads a public statement from one of our quarantined #nurses who works at a northern California Kaiser facility.Full statement ➡️ https://t.co/YjTAvAXTRX#COVID19 @WorksafeCA pic.twitter.com/pSZ1ghCB2k — Bonnie Castillo (@NNUBonnie) March 5, 2020
On March 5, Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the coronavirus task force in the US, confirmed that there are not enough tests to meet the demand, but he hoped there would be in the coming weeks.
Read more: California and Washington state have both declared a state of emergency after their first coronavirus deaths —here's what it means The US has reported 12 coronavirus deaths among at least 221 cases. Here's what we know about the US patients. Coronavirus live updates: Nearly 98,000 people have been infected and more than 3,300 have died. The US has reported 12 deaths. Here's everything we know. California just reported its first coronavirus death: a patient in the Sacramento area who recently returned from a cruise SEE ALSO: Thousands of Chinese doctors volunteered for the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak. They are overwhelmed, under-equipped, exhausted, and even dying. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Here's how to survive an avalanche
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10 nurses were suspended from a California hospital for refusing to treat coronavirus patients without N95 masks
Ten nurses were suspended from a California hospital after refusing to work with coronavirus patients unless...Ten nurses were suspended from a California hospital after refusing to work with coronavirus patients unless they were given more protective equipment, including N95 face masks. The nurses at Providence St. John's Medical Center in Santa Monica started to make the demands after a colleague tested positive. They are barred from returning to work while the company investigates. Some of the nurses said they feared spreading the virus to their families. Another nurse said she tested positive after treating coronavirus patients. The CDC does not require nurses to have N95 masks when dealing with coronavirus patients, but medical staff across the country have objected. The hospital did not comment on the nurses' cases but said it was now giving N95 masks to nurses and acknowledged the "national shortage." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Ten nurses in a California hospital were suspended after saying they would not work in the coronavirus ward if they were not given protection including N95 masks, The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times reported. The Los Angeles Times reported that three nurses at Providence St. John's Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, were suspended on Friday. It came after they demanded more protective equipment after learning that a coworker had tested positive for the virus. Seven more nurses were suspended after making other demands over the weekend, a source told the LA Times. National Nurses United, a body which represents the nurses, said that the 10 nurses have been suspended, The Associated Press reported. The union said that they are now allowed to return to work until there has been an investigation from human resources, but that they are still being paid. Mike Gulick, one of the nurses who demanded the equipment on Friday, was determined not to bring the virus to his wife and two-year-old daughter. He would stop at a hotel to shower before going home after his shifts, the AP reported. He told the AP: "I went into nursing with a passion for helping those who are most vulnerable and being an advocate for those who couldn't have a voice for themselves, but not under the conditions we're currently under." And Jack Cline, another suspended nurse, told the LA Times: "We told them we're willing to reuse the same mask all day long and cover it up with a surgical mask, just issue us one mask a shift." "That's all what we're asking for." N95 masks can remove 95% of airborne particles, offering more protection for healthcare workers than other mask types. The CDC has not required that medical staff use N95 masks, and says that medical workers can work with regular surgical masks when treating coronavirus patients. But health care workers have been critical of the policy. Cline said: "I've been a nurse for 25 years; I don't need the CDC to tell me when I need an N95," "When I have a patient coughing directly in my face ... I'm not going into that room unless they provide me with one." Cline also said: "I'm immune compromised, I'm a diabetic." "They're saying I'm refusing my assignment, I'm not ... It's not that I'm afraid to go in there, I'm afraid because I don't have the equipment." Medical staff around the country have worked without masks amid a national shortage during the outbreak, or have re-used masks when dealing with more than one patient. The Food and Drug Administration says that N95 respirator masks "should not be shared or reused." Angela Gatdula, another nurse at the hospital, tested positive for the virus, and said she thinks she contracted it after treating coronavirus patients. She said the hospital told her that wearing a surgical mask, and not an N95 mask, would be enough. "They could've done more," she told the LA Times. "I don't want it to be one of our nurses who ends up needing hospitalization, needing ICU admission, possibly even dying." The Providence St. John's Medical Center told the LA Times that it could not comment on suspensions due to privacy laws. In a more general statement, it said "We are so grateful for the heroic work our nurses perform each day and will not let the actions of a few diminish the appreciation we have for all our nurses and their commitment to our community. ... Saint John's cherishes its nurses and is taking precautions sanctioned by leading world, national, state and local health agencies to ensure their safety." It also declined to say how many workers in the hospital have tested positive for the virus, again citing privacy laws. The hospital would also not elaborate on shortages to the AP, but said that, as of Tuesday, it was giving N95 masks to all nurses who work with coronavirus patients and are waiting to see if they have tested positive. It also said it was disinfecting masks daily. "It's no secret there is a national shortage," the statement said. Nursing unions across the US have protested or have organized protests over the shortage of personal protective equipment like masks. Dr. Frank Gabrin, the first emergency room doctor to die of the coronavirus had told his friend before his death in March that he got infected after he had to wear the same mask four days in a row.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How the Navy's largest hospital ship can help with the coronavirus
On Friday, South Korea reported that 91 coronavirus patients being considered for discharge tested positive for...On Friday, South Korea reported that 91 coronavirus patients being considered for discharge tested positive for the virus again. The director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus may have been "reactivated" rather than the patients being re-infected. It remains unclear why the patients tested positive after initially testing negative for COVID-19 — WHO announced Saturday that it would be investigating the reports. "As COVID-19 is a new disease, we need more epidemiological data to draw any conclusions," WHO told Reuters. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Saturday that it is investigating reports that coronavirus patients who initially tested negative tested positive for the virus days later. "We are aware of these reports of individuals who have tested negative for COVID-19 using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing and then after some days testing positive again," a WHO spokesperson told Reuters. On Friday, South Korea reported that 91 coronavirus patients they believed to have recovered from the disease tested positive for the virus again. Guidelines from WHO on clinical management recommended that a clinically recovered COVID-19 patient should test negative for the virus twice, with tests conducted at least 24 hours apart, before being discharged from the hospital. The COVID-19 patients in South Korea were being considered for discharge after testing negative for the disease — however, tests administered later showed positive results. South Korean health officials said they would be launching epidemiological investigations to determine what was behind the trend. Jeong Eun-kyeong, the director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a news briefing that the virus may have "reactivated" in the patients, as opposed to the patients being re-infected again, Bloomberg reported. "While we are putting more weight on reactivation as the possible cause, we are conducting a comprehensive study on this," Jeong said Monday. "There have been many cases when a patient during treatment will test negative one day and positive another." The number of patients who were believed to have been cleared of the coronavirus but later tested positive jumped from 51 on Monday to 91 on Friday. Shortly after, WHO announced it would also be looking into the recent COVID-19 trend in South Korea as well. "We are closely liaising with our clinical experts and working hard to get more information on those individual cases. It is important to make sure that when samples are collected for testing on suspected patients, procedures are followed properly," a spokesperson for WHO told Reuters in a statement. According to WHO, current studies show that patients with mild COVID-19 experience a period of about two weeks between the onset of symptoms and clinical recovery. But it remains unclear why these patients are testing positive after they were believed to have recovered from COVID-19. "As COVID-19 is a new disease, we need more epidemiological data to draw any conclusions," the statement added. More than 390,000 people worldwide have recovered from the coronavirus, according to data collected by John Hopkins. Infectious disease experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, believe that "people who recover [from COVID-19] are really protected against re-infection." People who have been infected develop antibodies that can "probably fight off the coronavirus if they encounter it again," making them temporarily immune to the coronavirus, according to Business Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen. However, it's unclear how long the protection lasts, she added. Recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci said people who recover from the coronavirus will likely be immune should a second wave of infection spread in the early fall. But preliminary studies about coronavirus immunity show that not all recovered patients develop the antibodies needed to protect ourselves from the virus. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How to find water when you're stuck in the desert
At least 5 US health workers have gotten the coronavirus, and hundreds more are in quarantine. Hospitals may face staffing shortages as cases surge.
At least five US health workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, hundreds are in quarantine...At least five US health workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, hundreds are in quarantine after exposure, and dozens are waiting on test results. Healthcare workers are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus because they're exposed to more viral particles. Healthcare leaders say the US healthcare system is not ready for a widespread coronavirus outbreak. Delays in testing, mask shortages, and staffing issues could all hinder the country's response. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. As the coronavirus spreads in the US, healthcare workers are on the front lines. At least five have contracted the virus, and hundreds of others have been exposed and sent home to self-quarantine over the last month. "It's high anxiety," Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, told Business Insider. "There's a lack of confidence that the industry is prepared to adequately provide a safe environment for patients that have the virus and for patients that don't have the virus, and provide safe working conditions for the people caring for them." As coronavirus case numbers swell, asking health workers to stay home for two weeks after they're exposed could leave hospitals short-staffed. "Already, hospitals and nursing homes are often not staffed appropriately," Rosselli said. "If a lot of health care workers contract the virus and have to stay home, obviously at the same time, more patients are being admitted to hospitals. It's potentially a huge critical situation." On Saturday, the CDC updated its recommendations to encourage healthcare providers who have been exposed to the coronavirus but aren't experiencing symptoms to continue coming in to work. They should check their temperature daily and wear face masks, the CDC said. Healthcare workers have a high risk of getting coronavirus The coronavirus has infected at least 111,000 people and killed 3,300. Nearly three-quarters of all cases have been in China. The US has over 600 cases; of these, 26 patients have died. Healthcare workers are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases like the coronavirus for a handful of reasons. First, medical staff members are exposed to more viral particles than the general public. Second, they face potential shortages of protective supplies and tests as the tide of patients rises. Third, a combination of stress and long hours could make their immune systems more vulnerable than normal. In China, nearly 3,400 healthcare workers have contracted the virus. At least 13 have died. The US could see 4.8 million coronavirus hospitalizations Dr. James Lawler, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, offered estimates of how much the virus might spread in the US in a February webinar hosted by the American Hospital Association. His projections suggest the US could see 96 million cases of coronavirus, 4.8 million hospitalizations, and 480,000 deaths. Hospitals should prepare for an impact on the system 10 times that of a severe flu season, the presentation said. The CDC has lagged behind in testing and confirming suspected cases — as of Sunday, about 1,700 people had been tested. This also puts healthcare workers at risk of exposure, since limited testing raises the likelihood that patients go undiagnosed and spread the virus in medical settings. In Solano County, California, a patient with coronavirus went undiagnosed for four days each at two different hospitals last month because she didn't meet the CDC's coronavirus testing requirements. Over 200 employees between the two hospitals were exposed and have had to self-quarantine for weeks. Three have tested positive for coronavirus. "Healthcare providers may be being exposed, other patients may be being exposed, and until you can give confidence to people about those answers, we are in a crisis here," Yale professor Howard Forman, a radiologist and expert in healthcare management, told Business Insider. US hospitals are asking patients who suspect they might have the coronavirus to call ahead. That way, health workers can ensure they're taken to an isolation room, and that all of the health workers involved wear personal protective gear. But that's not what always happens, Rosselli said. "There's all kinds of workers that have direct contact with patients," said Rosselli. "There's a much larger number of housekeepers, dietary workers, technicians, radiologists, x-ray technicians, clerical workers." "It goes way beyond nurses and physicians," he added. Many healthcare workers at the Life Care Center were exposed At the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, 13 residents and one visitor have died. Officials said 70 staff members out of 180 had symptoms resembling coronavirus as of Saturday. In addition, 26 firefighters and three police officers who had contact with facility residents are also under quarantine. Kirkland Patch reported that 12 of those responders are experiencing flu-like symptoms. Tim Killian, a spokesman for the center, said the state had provided enough test kits for all of the residents, but it was not clear whether there were also enough kits to test all staff members. In addition, 20 staff members at the Valley Medical Center in Renton, Washington, are being tested for coronavirus after exposure to a patient there. One has already tested positive and is in isolation. Eleven are awaiting results under quarantine. Given the risk of staff shortages at hospitals like this, the CDC updated its recommendations for healthcare workers and facilities over the weekend, removing a requirement that asymptomatic workers who'd been exposed to a coronavirus patient stay home. Asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus has been recorded before, however. A study last month found that 20-year-old woman from Wuhan, China, transmitted the coronavirus to five family members without ever showing symptoms. 'I did this assuming that if something happened to me, of course I too would be cared for' After potential exposure to a coronavirus patient in a northern California Kaiser facility, an anonymous quarantined nurse released an open letter about her situation through the California Nurses Association. "As a nurse, I'm very concerned that not enough is being done to stop the spread of the coronavirus. I know because I am currently sick and in quarantine after caring for a patient who tested positive," she wrote. "I'm awaiting 'permission' from the federal government to allow for my testing, even after my physician and county health professional ordered it. I volunteered to be on the care team for this patient, who we knew was positive. I did this because I had all the recommended protective gear and training from my employer. I did this assuming that if something happened to me, of course I too would be cared for." Many health workers are concerned about getting paid during self-quarantine, Rosselli added. Some hospitals haven't released guidelines yet around whether quarantines count as sick time, paid time off, or unpaid time. "It's not unusual for healthcare workers to live from week-to-week because they're working class people generally, especially in nursing homes where the wages and benefits are inferior," he added. "If employers don't commit to paying folks if they have symptoms or if they contract the virus, we're concerned that people will hide the symptoms because they live from week-to-week and can't afford to take work off without pay." Lydia Ramsey and Jessica Snouwaert contributed reporting. Have you been personally affected by the coronavirus epidemic? Are you a healthcare worker on the front lines of this disease? Have you or someone you know been tested or diagnosed? We want to hear your story. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org. SEE ALSO: People are racing to buy face masks amid the coronavirus outbreak, but they probably won't protect you from illness Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 myths about the coronavirus, including why masks won't help