'I'm scared': Minnesota health care workers continue plea for more PPE

*The nurse FOX 9 interviewed wished to remain anonymous, so for the purposes of this story, she will be named Jennifer.

Across the nation and right here in Minnesota, health care workers are calling for more Personal Protective Equipment.

Since the coronavirus pandemic landed in Minnesota, we've been hearing from health care workers about the shortage of PPE. Now, about a month later, for some, that concern remains.

"I’m scared. It’s scary being there, but it’s also scary hoping not to bring it home to my family and my friends," nurse Jennifer said. 

But, nurse Jennifer fears she is putting her life on the line by using some equipment - like N95 masks - more than once.

"Reusing them is never what they were supposed to be, and using them an entire shift can't be as effective,” she said. “It’s putting us in front a little bit more if we are not properly protected."

M Health Fairview said that last week, it expanded the use of N95 masks to all health care workers treating confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients, not just those in the ICU and emergency rooms.

The system is also giving each frontline worker five N95 masks to rotate over 10 days, with the hope of using each one twice. They also started using ultraviolet radiation to decontaminate those masks daily so they can be used up to six times.

“There's a worldwide supply issue that we are dealing with so our number one focus is how we protect our staff. So, we are doing what we feel protects our staff and preserves our PPE for when this becomes a bigger issue as the numbers rise," said Abe Jacob with M Health Fairview.

So far, the state of Minnesota has received 409,000 N95 masks, but only distributed 32,000 of them and is waiting for 1.6 million more.

But, the Minnesota Nurses Association says in some hospitals, N95 masks are under lock and key, and nurses have to go through their supervisor to get another.

"If I have a patient that needs me and needs me right away, I don't have time to go find a manager with my broken 95 mask to say I need a new one so I can go save my patient," said Brittany Livacarri with MNA.

But, Jennifer wonders if her hospital is rationing PPE now, what will happen when the pandemic hits its peak?

“There's not going to be enough people to work when it gets bad if we aren't protected in the front."

M Health Fairview says it would need three to five times the amount of PPE it has now to return to a one use per patient policy, and it could need up to 15 times the PPE when the pandemic hits its peak. The hospital said it doesn't see that happening in the current climate.