US hospitals battling the coronavirus pandemic have become "war zones," according to a private online document used by more than 1,200 health care workers. New Jersey nurse Sonja Schwartzbach created the Google document a week ago as a place for health care workers to detail working conditions, which Schwartzbach knew were "far worse" than most realized. "There was such desperation … and it wasn't being adequately addressed in the news media," the 34-year-old critical care nurse tells the New York Times. In the resulting document, "Covid-19: Mission for Masks," anonymous users say they're scared to go to work and worry they'll become infected, even if their managers seem less concerned. More than 90% of respondents said they were without the proper gear, especially N95 masks. Some described covering their faces with bandannas or coffee filters.
More said they'd been told to clean and reuse their masks over several days. A nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit in Pennsylvania said an email instructed them not to take off their gloves "when in a room if they get soiled, but to use sanitizer on the gloves!" A nurse in California, who described the virus as "terrifying," remarked that "we live in the richest country in the world and yet we don't have the tools to perform our job safely." Nurses are in short supply, too, even with some coming out of retirement. "This is the war we're battling, these are the troops," a nurse recruiter tells NBC News, describing unprecedented demand. A New York nurse adds "people will die because, realistically speaking, you cannot attend to 10, 20, or 30 patients to yourself." (New York is in need of almost 100,000 hospital beds.)