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'I don’t want to watch people suffering' | ICU nurse asks people to wear masks, wash hands to stay healthy

A statewide mask mandate requires people to wear face coverings while at indoor public locations.

GREELEY, Colo. — The statewide mask mandate has been in effect for two weeks as health officials say that covering our faces can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Some of our neighbors know the pain and suffering the virus can cause all too well and point to masks as a way to keep each other safe.

"Especially during the peak of COVID, I worked in a completely COVID unit for ICU patients who were ventilated, sedated and paralyzed," said Katie Stencel, a nurse at Banner Health North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley. "I think it’s easy, especially when people are healthy, to have this mindset that it won’t happen to me. And I hope that’s true. But, I don’t want anyone to have to be wrong about that."

Stencel has treated the sickest of the sick. She’s saved lives and knows the sacrifices we make to keep each other safe could help her save more.

"I don’t want to watch people suffering and hurting and there’s nothing I can do about it," said Stencel. "If we can wear masks and decrease the numbers of COVID, then that keeps people out of the hospital, it keeps our numbers down so that we don’t get to the point where we were in March or April where we were scared that people may not get ventilators."

Her message is simple: a mask won’t fix everything, but if you wash your hands, keep your distance and cover your face, it could help keep everyone safe. 

After all, you don’t want to be in a position where you meet Katie at her job.  

"If we can make the decision on the front end to wear a mask, it keeps us from being in those tough situations," said Stencel. "I don’t want to have to work in that environment again, but more importantly, I don’t want to watch people die without their families."

The statewide mask mandate is set to expire next month. No word yet if it will be extended.

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