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For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.

Some health care workers at area hospitals and their families have expressed dismay many of those workers aren't allowed to wear face masks that they brought from home in the workplace.

The hospitals are defending the policies and pointing to direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the guiding force behind the restrictions.

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) policy used at St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City is consistent with CDC recommendations, said Jessica Royston, marketing and communications manager for SSM Health Mid-Missouri Region.

"Nurses and other caregivers are not currently allowed to bring protective gear from home," she said, "as we are unable to confirm fit or function of this equipment."

Critics of the policies said the CDC is providing instructions on how people may make homemade masks (by using things like handkerchiefs). But neither of Jefferson City's hospitals has accepted any of the masks.

Capital Region Medical Center and MU Health Care, which have close ties, both follow the same CDC guidelines.

CRMC directs staff to follow the guidelines for the appropriate usage of PPE based on the presenting symptoms or illness of each patient, said Lindsay Huhman, CRMC director of marketing.

"The guidelines do not recommend employees take equipment to and from the hospital and/or health care facility, which could increase the risk of spreading infection," Huhman said in an email to the News Tribune. "Currently, our supply of PPE is adequate to meet the needs of our employees as recommended by the CDC.

"We appreciate the support of our community as we address our current community situation, and we plan for future scenarios."

Jesslyn Chew, public relations manager at MU Health Care, told the News Tribune in an email the university health system follows strict, evidence-based protocols for mask usage.

"MU Health Care staff receive extensive training on infection control and prevention to keep themselves and their patients safe," she said.

She noted MU Health Care's chief clinical officer, Stevan Whitt, said in an interview masks do very little to prevent healthy people from inhaling viruses. When you inhale in a surgical mask, he said, viruses travel around the side of the mask or through it. But if you're sick, coughing and sneezing, a mask can trap the water droplets you exhale containing the virus, he said.

"Due to strict regulations regarding infectious disease control, we are unable to accept outside, homemade masks at this time," Chew said. "MU Health Care is working with several quilting guilds in the area whose members have volunteered to help us by sewing masks. Our team is putting kits together with approved materials and a pattern community members can use to sew masks."

However, if the health care system does accept the masks, it will only be able to accept masks made with the supplies in its kits. And masks must be made in a smoke- and animal-free environment.

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