April 20 (Reuters) - The New York State Nurses Association sued the state and two hospitals on Monday to force them to provide equipment and adopt safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the association's members in the hard-hit state.
The association sued the New York state Department of Health, Montifiore Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center. The nurses asked judges to issue injunctions to force the defendants to provide masks and other protection to the state's nurses.
"These lawsuits were filed to protect our nurses, our patients and our communities from grossly inadequate and negligent protections," said a statement from Pat Kane, the association's executive director.
The court filings said that despite requirements by the state's COVID-19 task force that healthcare workers receive an N95 respirator daily, hospitals were ignoring the directive and the health department was not enforcing it.
The two hospitals did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"The State of New York continues to take every step necessary to ensure that health care workers, particularly those who are sampling and providing direct care, have the support and supplies needed to address this unprecedented public health emergency," said the Department of Health in a statement.
The association represents 42,000 nurses in the state, which leads the country with about 233,000 COVID-19 cases. The association said that 11% of registered nurses in New York have tested positive for the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The lawsuits come as U.S. policymakers are debating reopening the world's largest economy.
On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it could take months for the country's most populous city to get back to normal due to the lack of widespread testing. New York state has accounted for nearly half of the more than 41,150 U.S. COVID-19 deaths. (Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Gabriella Borter and Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)
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