William La Jeunesse reports from LAX on how all face coverings are not created equal.
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A nurse in California died two weeks after she treated a “code blue” coronavirus patient without wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), with her colleagues saying she would have lost valuable time if she had waited to find an N95 mask before helping the patient who required immediate resuscitation and ventilation.
In early April, Celia Marcos, 61, a longtime nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, was on duty overseeing a man with a COVID-19 infection when she became aware that he had stopped breathing. Only wearing a surgical mask, Marcos rushed in to treat him — knowing that performing chest compressions would likely release infectious particles into the air, putting her at risk for contracting the novel virus herself, The Los Angeles Times reported.
She ultimately contracted the virus and died 14 days later, with her death now being counted among at least 36 health care workers in California who have died from COVID-19, according to the outlet.
“The hospital wasn’t giving us appropriate PPE — the N95s were locked,” one of Marcos’s colleagues told the outlet on the condition of anonymity. “It’s just too painful for everybody, what happened to her.”
Surgical masks are not designed for use as particulate respirators and do not provide as much respiratory protection as an N95 respirator.
Though the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center has denied that the nurse treated patients without proper PPE — administrators told the outlet that the hospital “adheres to all local and federal recommendations” — her death has since prompted the nurses union SEIU 121 to file a complaint with the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The complaint alleges her death was “the result of inadequate PPE provided to staff,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
The floor on which Marcos worked was not reserved only for coronavirus patients, so staff in that area of the hospital did not regularly receive N95s, some of the nurse’s colleagues allege.
“Celia was called to a COVID-19 isolation room while wearing only a surgical mask — not the required N95 respirator, gown, face shield, and booties that her hospital should have given her for her protection,” said SEIU 121 President Nina Wells, in a statement to the outlet. “Now we know she gave her life to try to save a life.”
However, many of the hospital’s employees noted that Marcos’ case represents the broader shortages of PPE across the nation, with some telling The Los Angeles Times that they don’t blame the hospital itself.
“I don’t think my hospital is worse than anyone else’s hospital,” Sydnie Boylan, a charge nurse at the hospital who worked with Marcos, told the outlet. “I don’t know who threw out the rule book when it comes to infection control.”
Marcos’ colleagues held a candlelight vigil in her honor last week, according to local reports.