TORONTO -- A union representing health-care workers in long-term care homes says the province wants to change a directive that gives all workers access N95 masks.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario says the provincial government has asked to begin discussions about removing access from the provincial rules because it believes the masks aren't necessary.

The union says the N95 masks block aerosolized virus particles and offer better protection than surgical masks currently in use.

But the union also says that the N95 masks are not widely available to workers despite the provincial rule.

More than 1,600 workers in the province's long-term care homes have tested positive for COVID-19 and a personal support worker in Orleans, Ont., died from the virus earlier this week.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott says the health and safety of Ontarians and front-line health workers is the government's top priority.

"Following recent court decisions related to Directive .5, we have initiated conversations with all labour union partners to address how we can ensure workers remain protected, while being mindful that the global supply chain for personal protective equipment continues to be extremely strained," Hayley Chazan said in a statement.

"As part of these discussions, we are collectively looking at how we may overcome these supply chain challenges, including through domestic production opportunities and the safe reprocessing of supplies."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2020.