Nurses are on the front line in the fight to treat and contain the coronavirus, but they have some serious concerns about new protocols and the lack of access to personal protective equipment as they care for patients.

"The nurses are worried that we don't have enough ammo to fight the war that we're fighting as far as ventilators, as far as equipment, just like everybody else," New York State Nurses Association Western Regional Director Kena Collins said.

Collins also works in critical care on the ventilator floor of Erie County Medical Center, where patients with coronavirus are treated.

"Once the CDC changed their mandate, it allowed everybody to kind of get scared and be able to hold onto equipment, not just our hospital but other hospitals all across the state," she said.

Collins said protocols have changed at ECMC so nurses no longer have access to masks when they feel they need them, specifically the N95 masks recommended to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

Now the PPEs are recommended only when they are in close contact with a patient who has tested positive for the virus, is sneezing or coughing, or during aerosol generating procedures like ventilation or intubation.

"Of course we're scared about ourselves but we think about our patients, our families, our co-workers, the public. We think about the pregnant women. We think about  immunocompromised people before we even think about ourselves so I think our biggest fear is spreading it to other people because we're taught to do no harm," Collins said.

ECMC Long-Term Care nurse Steve Bailey said even surgical masks are being used for longer periods of time than ever before. While his unit has seen no cases of COVID-19, he said it would be potentially devastating.

"That is a big concern," Bailey said. "I could think of several residents on my unit that if they got this, this might be a very traumatic if not life-ending experience for them."

Nurses at the hospital and outside of it have turned to the community to find masks. Home health professional Mary Kulinski was picking some up from a local tailor this week.

"It's a scary thing and you never thought you'd have to put your life on the line to protect someone else, but I also have family that I have to worry about so I think if you're not scared, you're silly and you're not smart enough," Kulinski, an RN for the Visiting Nurses of WNY, said.

In Erie County another drive-thru testing site has popped up in Amherst. A county health department employee who wished to remain anonymous said through the nurses' union that the county needs more nurses, more testing and a wider more serious response to the crisis.

"We're like firemen," Bailey said. "We're taught to run towards the fire so having something serious like this is what we all signed up for."

Collins said nurses are "built tough" and this crisis is helping them band together in solidarity.