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Colorado nurses sewing masks to fight shortage during outbreak

"Nobody wants to do their job without the appropriate protection. When we feel like we are protected, we can do the job the best we can do.”

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — There aren’t enough masks to protect medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. If more supply doesn’t come soon those doctors and nurses could get sick themselves, further stressing an already taxed system.

#GetMePPE is trending on Twitter this week. Healthcare workers are sharing their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages, urging the federal and state governments to act fast.

"Nobody wants to do their job without the appropriate protection. When we feel like we are protected, we can do the job the best we can do,” said Brady Heuer, operating room nurse at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

RELATED: 'We are very short on supplies:' Workers on the front line of COVID-19 share their stories

She and fellow nurse Kristen Dirksen won’t be participating in as many surgeries this week. Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order Thursday stopping all non-essential surgery. Instead, the team decided to gather a small team and some sewing machines to create more protective masks. The hospital, like most across the country, is running low.

They aren’t using cotton, which wouldn’t prevent droplets from passing through. Instead they got their hands on material used to wrap sterile surgical instruments in. They sew on some straps and add pipe cleaners for support over the nose.

“This creation that we’re making will help extend that burn rate so we can selectively choose when to use the FDA approved N95 masks and surgical masks and when to use the masks that we’re creating here,” said Dirksen.

Italy learned it’s shortage lesson in a tough way. So many medical professionals got sick that hospitals had to turn people away. 9Health Medical Expert Dr. Payal Kohli says the problem needs to be addressed now.

“If doctors and nurses don’t get the PPE that they need, they might be OK today. But in seven to ten days we’re going to be fighting this war without our soldiers,” she said.

RELATED: Hospitals worry of shortages as first responders, medical workers use more protective equipment

Governments are trying to speed that process up. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says they have received PPE from the national stockpile, but that it won’t be enough to fight the pandemic over time. Polis is asking the federal government for more help on that front.

Some have asked about how to donate respirators and other protective gear. The state has setup a website to contribute: https://covrn.com/

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