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Healthcare Workers Express Concern As Coronavirus Cases Rise

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Protective face masks are being used to ward off the coronavirus. (Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images)
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As the number of coronavirus cases has risen past 250 in the United Statesincluding at least 60 in California — so has alarm among health care workers.

Last week, a patient with coronavirus-like symptoms showed up at the Parkview Community Medical Center in Riverside, interacting with at least 10 caregivers. However, the workers didn’t have the proper safety equipment, said John Richardson, a pathology assistant who was briefly quarantined.

“Workers were allowed to come in contact for too many hours without wearing proper safety equipment, and as a result a large number of workers had to be sent home, putting us and our families at risk,” he said in a statement.

Richardson ultimately returned to work after it was determined he hadn’t been exposed.

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He and other members of SEIU United Healthcare Workers West have called on hospitals to take action to protect staff from the dangers posed by the virus.

“That kind of chaos can really contribute to the spread of the virus,” said SEIU spokesman Sean Wherley told LAist.

He added that if large numbers of healthcare workers have to stay home, that will put a tremendous strain on hospitals.

The issues go far beyond Southern California. This week, a survey of more than 6,500 nurses in 48 states showed widespread concern over the lack of preparation, communication and equipment.

Less than half of respondents reported that their employer had provided information about the virus and how to respond to possible cases. Just 29 percent were aware of plans to isolate patients with a possible coronavirus case in their facility.

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The shortage of testing has also caused problems.

One Northern California nurse said in a statement that she started getting sick after caring for a patient with coronavirus. She said the CDC had made it difficult for her to get a test. “I am appalled at the level of bureaucracy that’s preventing nurses from getting tested,” she wrote.