By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nurses in Pennsylvania are applauding a new order from the health department mandating hospitals to better protect health care workers from the coronavirus.

Nurses and other health care workers have been complaining about working conditions inside hospitals, saying there weren’t enough safety measures and not enough protective equipment.

New orders are in place, aimed at keeping health care workers in Pennsylvania safer. It’s an action they’ve been calling for as the pandemic flooded hospitals with coronavirus patients.

Since early March, thousands of health care workers have contracted the virus. The nurses’ union says that includes 80 at Temple University Hospital, which has had the highest volume of COVID-19 cases.

“We were completely ill-prepared,” said Maureen May, Temple nurse and president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.

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May is applauding the new Pennsylvania Heath Department’s order that requires hospitals to better protect workers from coronavirus.

“We’re thrilled that all hospitals in the commonwealth , union and non-union, will have the protections, and frankly we deserve these protections,” May said.

Under the new order, hospitals must provide nationally approved respirators to staff involved in direct care of COVID-19 patients, and must replace them on request if the mask gets soiled or damaged.

Hospitals must also notify staff members who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 and offer virus testing to those workers.

“This order protects not just health care workers, as I said before, everybody in the community and our patients,” May said. “We want to put patients over profit and this is paramount to what we stand for.”

The order also mandates universal masking for everyone entering a hospital.

CBS3 reached out to the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania for a comment on the new order but didn’t hear back. The new order takes effect in five days.

Stephanie Stahl