By Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2020

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (AP) - Nurses seeking to resolve stalled contract talks went on strike at hospitals in New Rochelle and Albany on Tuesday as COVID-19 hospitalizations rose across New York state.

Nurses at Albany Medical Center Hospital began a 24-hour strike Tuesday over their deadlocked contract negotiations as well as complaints of inadequate coronavirus protocols. The Times Union reports that about 100 nurses were on the picket line shortly after 7 a.m.

Nurses in New Rochelle began a two-day strike against Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital calling for a fair contract and more staffing. The Journal News reports that about 200 nurses picketed Tuesday morning.

Nurses at both hospitals are represented by the New York State Nurses Association, which filed a complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Monday alleging that nurses at the Albany Medical Center are being forced to reuse N95 respirator masks as many as 20 times. That is far beyond the maximum of five times recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospital officials have condemned the job actions.

“This is a painful day for Albany Med,” hospital spokesperson Matthew Markham said. “While some of our nurses have chosen to abandon their patients, even as coronavirus hospitalizations continue reaching record levels in the Capital Region, Albany Med will not abandon its mission.” He said temporary nurses were at the hospital to replace those who are striking.

The Journal News reports that Marcos Crespo, senior vice president of community affairs for Montefiore Medicine, criticized the union for “selfishly putting the community at risk and using COVID-19 as a political football” at a news conference Monday.

Crespo said patients would be moved to other facilities to ensure their safety.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that there are more than 3,700 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, a steep increase from 900 in late June. Cuomo on Monday directed hospitals to draw up plans to handle an expected surge during the holidays.

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