April 23, 2020 / Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — As she treated patient after patient infected with the coronavirus at a Veterans Affairs medical center in New York City, Heather Espinal saw stark warning signs.
So many nurses had called in sick, she said, that the Bronx facility was woefully understaffed. It lacked specially equipped rooms for infected patients, she said, and didn’t have enough masks, gloves and other protective gear to guard against the spread of the highly contagious disease.
Espinal, 34, says she and her colleagues were told to do the best they could, using a single N95 face mask for an entire shift rather than getting a new one for each patient. In early April, she tested positive for COVID-19.
“I definitely believe it was related to me being at work,” said Espinal, who was out sick for two weeks.
Espinal is one of 1,900 VA healthcare workers who have become sick with the coronavirus, according to agency documents obtained by The Associated Press. Twenty have died. Another 3,600 of the 300,000-plus VA healthcare employees are quarantined and unable to work because they have been exposed to the virus, according to VA figures.