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Mask shortage ‘like sending someone to a forest fire with a water pistol’: nurses union

The Manitoba Nurses Union says it needs N95 masks, which it says are in short supply right now.
The Manitoba Nurses Union says it needs N95 masks, which it says are in short supply right now. File / Global News
A limited supply of N95 masks means Manitoba’s frontline healthcare staff aren’t adequately protected during the coronavirus pandemic, says the head of the Manitoba Nurses’ Union.
Darlene Jackson told 680 CJOB that nurses aren’t currently able to use the masks — which are recommended by both the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control — when they do swab tests for COVID-19.
“It’s like sending someone to a forest fire with a water pistol,” said Jackson.
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“Nurses are very concerned for their own health, for the health of their co-workers and their patients. If we start losing frontline providers to this virus, this system’s going to fall apart.”

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Jackson said despite recommendations to stockpile N95 masks following the SARS and H1N1 crises, she doesn’t think enough supplies were kept on hand to prepare for this pandemic.
“This world has been in a shortage almost from the minute this pandemic started, so I think it’s really important we learn lessons from previous experiences.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Province asks Manitoba businesses to help manufacture supplies

The Province of Manitoba has reached out to businesses to help manufacture much-needed safety equipment.
“Supplies have already begun to flow into Manitoba but we need much more,” said health minister Cameron Friesen on Wednesday.

“We are soliciting for help to collect the supplies we need in order to guard Manitobans against COVID-19.”

Jackson said she supports the government’s decision to reach out for help.
“If there are N95s, if there are surgical masks, if there is hand sanitizer out there, I do absolutely join the government in encouraging the private sector to please donate that.”
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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: 14 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, one person hospitalized' Coronavirus outbreak: 14 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, one person hospitalized
Coronavirus outbreak: 14 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba, one person hospitalized – Mar 25, 2020
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