New York nurses say they can't get tested for COVID-19 unless they present symptoms

Virus can be spread even by those without symptoms
Posted at 9:11 AM, Mar 24, 2020

NEW YORK — As coronavirus cases surge in New York City — according to Johns Hopkins, the 13,000 confirmed cases in the city represent about 30 percent of all confirmed cases across the country — two nurses warn that local hospitals aren't doing enough to protect health care workers.

The nurses — who were granted anonymity for this story — both work within the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital system, which is ranked number one ranked in New York City. Both said the hospital is not doing enough to protect the nurses who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They're making us come into work even if we think we have coronavirus, as long as we don't have any symptoms," said one nurse who works in the intensive care unit.

Nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic said they are struggling.

"We currently do not know how many of our nurses are actually positive, and we don't know the number that have been exposed," the nurse said.

The nurses painted a scary and dire picture of what's happening inside of New York's hospitals. They say supplies are running short.

"You have nurses making their own masks out of cloths," one nurse said.

Nurses who have treated COVID-19 patients are being told they cannot get tested unless they're presenting symptoms.

"What we believe is that the health care system in this country might very well collapse," one of the nurses said.

The New York State Nurses Association, the union representing nurses, is also calling for more testing.

"We're willing, ready and able," Anthony Ciampa, the vice president of the New York State Nurses Association, said. "We need the tools, the supplies, the resources to be able to stop this virus."

Because of the growing outbreak, NewYork-Presbyterian has now eliminated any visitors for most of its patients, including fathers and partners of women delivering babies.

NewYork-Presbyterian released the following statement.

"NewYork-Presbyterian is treating a large influx of COVID-19 patients, as anticipated. The health and safety of every patient in our care, as well as our entire staff, continues to be our highest priority. We continue to implement measures to increase capacity, including triage tents and reassignment of beds and units, cancellations of all elective surgeries, and utilization of telemedicine if possible; we are also conserving supplies, including personal protective equipment, to help meet this challenge, which we expect to continue. We very much appreciate the outpouring of support from New Yorkers for our healthcare workers. "

This story was originally published by Cristian Benavides and Corey Crockett on WPIX in New York.