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MN doctors and nurses concerned about personal protection equipment shortage

MN Nurses' Assoc. and healthcare systems accepting donations of much-needed n95 respiration masks.

MINNEAPOLIS — Privately and publicly, across the country right now health care providers are expressing concern about an equipment shortage as the coronavirus cases rise.

"If we don't' have the tools, we can't help the patients. And that's my biggest concern," said Twin Cities OBGYN Kellie Stecher.

Over the weekend, people began sewing cloth masks in an attempt to help. But health care professionals tell KARE 11 News, cloth masks are only 3 percent effective in blocking virus particles.

"Unfortunately, if you're looking at any viral particle it's not going to be effective," Stecher said.

The kind of mask they need is called an N95 respirator, which creates a seal around the nose and mouth and has a filter proven to be much more effective for protecting against virus particles.

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On Tuesday, South St. Paul-based The Sportsman Guide donated 40,000 N95 masks to the Minnesota Nurses' Association.

St. Cloud teacher Rick Wilson has started using his classroom's 3D printer to create N95 masks to help those who donated their FDA approved masks.

"People from body shop workers to construction people, there's a lot of people who have given up their N95 masks to the healthcare workers who now have nothing to use," Wilson said.

One shortage leads to another. Medical sources tell KARE 11 if face shields run out, then the N95 mask supply would go very quickly.

Now, Eden Prairie company Stratasys is attempting to produce 3,000 face masks per day to help health systems around the country.

"3D printing will provide a bridge to give us time, to help scale up other forms of manufacturing these shields," says Stratasys VP of Public Relations Aaron Pearson.

Doctors and nurses on the front lines are very appreciative of those helping address the shortage and of those who do their part to prevent spreading the coronavirus.

"We need to be available to our patients," said Twin Cities nurse Andrea Hendrickson. "We’re scared. We’re very very scared. Especially those who have compromised kids at home or nurses who are taking care of parents." 

RELATED: Here are the coronavirus cases confirmed in MN, WI

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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