By Jon King/

A local nurse who is helping to fight the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines is asking the public to please make sure she and other health care workers have the proper equipment to make sure everyone is protected.

Chere' Wolfe of Howell has been a Registered Nurse for 26 years, the last 15 at the University of Michigan Hospital. Normally, Wolfe works as a float nurse on the telemetry floor, but volunteered to help out as needed in the RICU, or Regional Infectious Containment Unit, that is set up at U of M and other hospitals. Wolfe tells WHMI that U of M has a special program in which they are training float nurses in a rapid "modified care orientation program" so that they can assist all of the Intensive Care Units (ICU) including the RICU. She says they have been preparing for the last month for the mass influx of infected patients and while that hasn't happened yet, there has most definitely been an increase in those patients onto their floors. She says while the situation at U of M remains in control, they have had to take various measures to stay ahead of the increasing influx of infected patients. Everyone entering the hospital is being screened before entering and is required to wear a mask while there.

While there are no shortages yet of gowns or protective face shields, Wolfe says the N95 masks have been limited to only being used during certain medical procedures that would put health care workers at the highest risk. That means that she and other nurses still have to enter rooms with COVID-19 infected patients wearing just a regular yellow face mask. So when she’s out shopping and sees members of the general public wearing N95 masks, it definitely creates a reaction. "Every time I see one I think, 'Well, that's another nurse or doctor that could have been protected.' They don't need an N95, they only need a regular face mask out in the public. They're not getting any kind of aerosolized danger. They're only getting droplet danger if someone were to be coughing in their face or sneezing in their face." According to the Food & Drug Administration, N95 respirators and surgical masks are examples of personal protective equipment that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face.

Wolfe encourages anyone with a supply of those masks to please donate them to their local hospital. Because of her work, Wolfe has been forced to self-isolate from her elderly parents, while taking serious precautions to protect her two teenagers at home, including immediately stripping off her work clothing, putting that in the washer, and then showering before coming into contact with them.

She says she is happy to assist as needed in caring for people stricken by the disease, but would hope everyone else would do their part as well.