CLAREMORE, Oklahoma – Health care workers are at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, and those living and working in Rogers County, Oklahoma, are pleading with people to take it seriously.

Emergency room nurse Katie Rice said they are "terrified," but not for themselves.

"We are terrified of bringing this home to our families. We are terrified of getting it and having to be put on the bench for two weeks and leave our peers and our work family shorter-staffed and exhausted. We are terrified that we will have to choose between who lives and who dies. We are terrified because we go to work every day and save lives, and there may be nothing in our training to help us fix the sickness this time,” said Rice.

Rice said she’s been a nurse for eight years, and has spent four of them in ER/trauma, but she’s never seen anything like this.

“This has the potential to be just as crippling to us as it has been to Italy," Rice said. "We are short-staffed in America  for nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and other badly needed medical professionals."

Rice describes COVID-19 as a serious threat.

“We’ve not even gotten close to seeing the proverbial iceberg yet. I’m not trying to scare you or intimidate you or get you to pick a political party, I just want you to know the reality of what’s coming if steps aren’t taken now to give yourself and your loved ones a chance,” Rice.

She said there are not enough ventilators in Oklahoma for everyone who will need one at the peak of this pandemic.

“If Americans continue to surround themselves with luxuries instead of inconveniences, and [don't] stay away from each other, it will not be between you and 15-plus other people that need a ventilator to stay alive; it will be between you and your mom, or you and your sibling, or you and your best friend who gets the ventilator, and a small chance to survive," Rice said. "But you are putting me and the doctors I work with in an impossible situation to choose who gets the ventilator and who doesn’t.”

She said it's not a matter of if they will run out of ventilators, but when.

“Just stay home. Give your doctors and nurses and paramedics and respiratory therapists and health systems a chance to save lives without the burden of choosing between family members who lives and who dies," Rice said.

Kayla Shambles, a Claremore resident and nurse, said the pandemic has changed her routine.

“More cleaning measures are being implemented and we’re continually being educated on the newest protocols as everything continues to change, as well as educating our patients,” Shambles said. “We gown, goggle, glove, and N95 mask up when we have a potential COVID-19 patient, so that extends our times for others in the lobby because we need to isolate those patients in a room as quickly as possible. If we test, we have to follow the proper chain of command on alerting personnel and doing rule-out testing.”

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