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As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the health and safety of healthcare and frontline workers amid a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be a cause of concern.
The sister of a New York City nurse who died from coronavirus believes her brother’s death was due to a lack of PPE, and is speaking out in hopes of warning other healthcare workers.
Marya Sherron said her brother Kious Jordan Kelly, who worked as an assistant nursing manager at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, had an “infectious energy” and was always in the habit of making others feel good about themselves.
On March 17, Kelly was admitted to Mount Sinai after contracting the novel coronavirus from treating infected patients. According to Sherron, Kelly suffered from severe asthma, and required a ventilator while he was in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Sherron shared the last text message she received from her brother while he was in ICU, detailing the horrific side effects of the respiratory virus.
“Can’t talk because I choke and can’t breathe,” Kelly wrote. “I love you. Going back to sleep.”
“You’ve pulled through so much,” Sherron replied. “Love you and we are praying.”
Kelly died on March 24 at the age of 48.
In an interview with NBC News, Sherron said she believes her brother’s death could have been prevented had there been appropriate PPE such as masks, gowns and gloves.
“I absolutely believe that he contracted this because of the lack of PPE in his unit and at his hospital — but that's across our nation," Sherron said.
Sherron’s sentiments are on the heels of a photo circulating on Facebook in which nurses are seen wearing garbage bags as PPE. The caption of the photo alleges that the nurses pictured work at Mount Sinai, the same hospital where Kelly worked and died.
“No more gowns in the whole hospital, Mount Sinai West,” Diana Torres wrote. “No more masks and reusing the disposable ones...Nurses figuring it out during COVID-19 crisis.”
Lucia Lee, the senior medical director for the Mount Sinai Health System told TODAY that the nurses were wearing the proper PPE under the garbage bags.
“When it comes to staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), the facts are very clear: We always provide all our staff with the critically important PPE they need to safely do their job,” she said. “If an individual does not have their proper PPE, they do not go on the floor, period. Any suggestion otherwise is simply not accurate.”
The hospital also issued a statement addressing the death of Kelly.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of a beloved member of our nursing staff. The safety of our staff and patients has never been of greater importance and we are taking every precaution possible to protect everyone. But this growing crisis is not abating and has already devastated hundreds of families in New York and turned our frontline professionals into true American heroes,” it read. “Today, we lost another hero — a compassionate colleague, friend and selfless caregiver.”
While Lee did agree that New York hospitals were in “crisis,” she told TODAY that there is enough PPE for staff - however more will be needed in the upcoming weeks.
Sherron said she hopes that by sharing her story, health care systems will take action to ensure their staff are properly protected.
“There's only going to be more," Sherron said. “He's not the only one with asthma. He's not the only one with conditions who is going to work every day helping and fighting for people.”