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Front-line health workers ask Biden for PPE, more testing, economic support

Employees picket outside the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Calif., on May 19. Front-line COVID-19 workers told President-elect Joe Biden Wednesday they need better protections and resources to fight the pandemic. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Employees picket outside the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Calif., on May 19. Front-line COVID-19 workers told President-elect Joe Biden Wednesday they need better protections and resources to fight the pandemic. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 18 (UPI) -- President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday held a virtual roundtable with front-line healthcare workers, who say they need more help from the government to fight COVID-19.

The discussion came after the United States added another 162,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,700 deaths Tuesday -- the highest one-day death toll since May.

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Participants at the roundtable called for more personal protective equipment, widespread testing, contract tracing and better economic support for Americans so they don't fear they'll lose income if they need to quarantine at home.

Mary Turner, an intensive care unit nurse and president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, told Biden that hospitals across the country are "overflowing" with coronavirus patients and they're not prepared.

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"We know the right way to battle this virus but our employers and our government are not supporting us," she said. "We're trying to care for our patients despite limited supplies [and] limited staff."

Turner said nurses at her hospital are reusing single-use N95 respirators two times because there isn't enough personal protective equipment. She said she's heard there are nurses at other hospitals reusing respirators as many as 10 times, until they fall off their faces.

"We can't stay safe when we're using these kinds of standards," she said. "We need to protect our front-line workers so we can take care of you."

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Earlier this month, Biden announced that his new COVID-19 advisory task force is drawn from the ranks of public health experts and scientists.

The 13-member task force will be co-chaired by former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Marcella Nunez-Smith, a public health expert at the Yale School of Medicine.

Other members are: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Dr. Luciana Borio, Dr. Rick Bright, Dr. Atul Gawande, Dr. Celine Gounder, Dr. Julie Morita, Dr. Michael Osterholm, Dr. Robert Rodriguez, Dr. Eric Goosby and global health expert Loyce Pace.

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Twelve of the advisory team members are medical doctors, signaling Biden's intention to follow through on promises to use a "science-based" approach to taming the coronavirus.

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