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US health workers dying because of lack of PPE, unions charge

HEALTH workers in the US are dying because of a lack of protective equipment, unions charged today after relatives claimed their loved ones would be alive today if guidelines on masks had been adhered to.

Angela Martinez, whose surgery-technician father Juan Martinez died from Covid-19 at the end of April, days before he was due to retire, insisted he could have survived had he worn a fresh N95 mask for every procedure, as mandated by the Centre for Disease Control.

“We can’t know, but they bent the rules, and that’s not how healthcare should be,” Ms Martinez told People’s World at a demonstration organised by the SEIU union and Illinois Nurses Association outside the hospital where he worked.

“We came because we knew they would be honouring my dad. His union, SEIU Local (branch) 73, was a big part of his life. He would be proud to see us here, in support of firstline workers.”

The demonstration was called to demand proper protective equipment and hazard pay. At least 9,000 health workers are believed to have contracted Covid-19 in the US.

Ms Martinez said: “They have made it OK for nurses to reuse these masks. I find it so hard to believe — we’re in America. We’re in a state of emergency. That is the time the rules are made for, when we’re supposed to do everything right. That is not the time to bend the rules.”

Hospital epidemiologist Ebony Talley was concerned that even though the science had not changed, the rules were being rewritten to accommodate equipment shortages.

Earlier this week, the AFL-CIO union federation filed papers to sue the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, accusing President Donald Trump of refusing to force companies to protect workers from Covid-19.

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