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TN suggests diapers, plastic grocery bags to protect healthcare workers

TDOH Diaper and Goggle Recommendation.jpg
Posted at 5:24 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-30 11:56:53-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Is a diaper a good substitute for help keep healthcare workers from getting infected by COVID-19?

How about a garbage bag?

Or a plastic grocery bag?

As the world deals with a critical shortage of personal protective equipment, NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered that's exactly what the Tennessee Department of Health is suggesting.

"That was when I was, like, 'I'm out,'" said Cool Springs physician Dr. Sonal Gupta said.

Gupta now focuses on practicing medicine through tele-health.

"If these are the suggestions and we don't have a supply-chain contact in the works and stuff coming down the pipeline to us, then all I am going to do potentially is be a spreader of disease."

Gov. Bill Lee has insisted that the supply for personal protective equipment (PPE) is good right now for healthcare workers dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

But the message from his health department is a bit more dire.

Instead of surgical masks, a slide from a webinar for health care professionals suggested that workers conserve PPE by using bandanas, diapers, even layers of tissues and gauze.

Instead of gowns, it suggested contractor trash bags.

Instead of gloves, plastic grocery bags.

Instead of eye protection, swim goggles.

"Part of it is hard because we want to do right by the patients, but we also want to do right by ourselves, Gupta said, explaining her concern for her patients, herself and her family.

On Tuesday, Lee downplayed those concerns.

"You know you hear about a lot of makeshift things happening, but there's not makeshift stuff happening in our state yet," Lee told reporters.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Gupta if that is true.

"No, that's not true," she responded.

In fact, NewsChannel 5 obtained pictures showing how health professionals in Tennessee are already using makeshift equipment to protect themselves in order to conserve the good supplies for an expected wave of coronavirus cases.

"I think part of it is there is concern of conservation," Gupta said.

"But, to me, if you are rationing what you do and if you are doing something different than the standard of care that has been adopted by your hospital or your institution before -- which is a new gown for each patient or a new mask for each patient and things to prevent cross-contamination -- then you are already having a makeshift plan."