PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – The push for PPE is still on in the state of Oregon.

Nurses say there's not enough to go around and hospitals are starting to see an uptick in COVID-19 patients. According to the Oregon Nurses Association, the calm before the storm is over.

"I think right now, the storm is starting," ONA communications director Rachel Gumpert said. "There has been a very significant uptick that is earlier than expected for the initial surge."

Nurses and doctors working in Oregon hospitals say they're getting sent in to weather the storm without an umbrella.

"This virus can infect people through their eyes, there's no shields, people are going in there with no shields," an ICU nurse said in a phone interview.

FOX 12 is protecting the nurse's identity at the request of ONA.

The nurse said her hospital is rapidly changing protocol as patients keep coming in but supplies don't.

"Goggles which were, prior to COVID-19, were a one-time use goggle, are now being 'oh, no you can clean those and put them back on the cart,'" the nurse said.

Health care workers have started sending in pictures with the PPE they need to stay safe as part of an ONA campaign.

Gumpert points out that many of the nurses in the photos, who are holding signs that say 'our safety ensures community safety' have a single mask on, or just a pair of goggles, when in reality they need N95 masks, goggles, face shields and gloves all at once.

FOX 12 also received photos showing what's left of some hospital departments' mask supply, which in some cases is down to a handful of brown bags.

Gumpert said the community response, from PPE donations to crafting homemade masks and gowns, has been a bright light for health care workers during this time. She said these items have been a comfort to workers knowing they have some backup options, but Gumpert said the professional-grade supplies are the ones needed most.

"We know that the effectiveness of DIY masks, unless they're made in a very specific way, and even prototypes for face masks being designed now, have a lot of room for error, and we can't be gambling with the lives of nurses during a pandemic," Gumpert said.

Gov. Kate Brown addressed the need for PPE in a phone conference Wednesday morning, calling the situation "unacceptable."

"As you all know, we've been working to tap federal supply," Brown said. "We've received about 25 percent of our request."

The governor added that other state governments are facing similar levels of frustration around the lack of PPE and are being told to turn to the drained open market to snap up supplies.

ONA came out with some guidelines to help nurses navigate how to decline a patient care assignment if they feel conditions aren't adequate for their health or safety, including improper PPE. You can find those guidelines here.

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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