Some Chicago-area nurses not allowed to wear masks amid COVID-19 outbreak

U.S. & World

CHICAGO (CBS News) — In the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, nurses are working long hours – sometimes even a double shift – and yet they say they can’t wear masks.

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As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported Tuesday night, those nurses say they’re afraid.

It sounds simple. If nurses are on the front line, let them wear what they believe will make them save. The University of Chicago Medical Center just changed its policy to universal masking for its staff, and nurses across the state hope other hospitals follow.

These days, you will find plenty of people wearing some type of mask. Whether they have the N95 mask designed to protect people from the coronavirus, or whether they just have surgical masks, their faces are covered.

But a Chicago area nurse said she is not being given that option.

“All of our masks at our hospitals are under lock and key and video surveillance,” she said.

The nurse hid her identity behind the same mask she has been told not to wear all day at work.

“Because I don’t want any repercussions from the hospital that I work at,” she said.

The hospital sent a memo reminding nurses of a previous policy prohibiting them from wearing masks in hallways during their shift.

“I’d like to wear it around the patients when I’m transporting patients; when I’m going into the patients’ room,” the nurse said, “and we are not allowed to wear our mask because it is deemed intimidating.”

At a time when the State of Illinois is fighting to get personal protective equipment, or PPE, for nurses, many hospitals are sticking by a policy that keeps employees from wearing a mask anywhere they choose.

“Why don’t you get your butts up and come and take care of these patients with us, and you’ll see how important is us for us to protect ourselves so we can protect the patients,” she said.

The U of C reversed its policy on masking last week. We asked Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike if it is alarming to hear employees can’t wear masks all day at work.

“We don’t know if just being symptomatic is just enough to protect yourself,” Ezike said. “Those guidelines are going to affect our practices to determine if more people need PPE’s.”

As for the nurse, she said she has plans to break her hospital’s mask policy.

“I’m going to wear my mask,” she said. “So it’s either you see me with my mask on and let me protect myself, and my family, and patients, or you just won’t see me at all.”

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