The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has acknowledged a national shortage of N95 respirator masks and has allowed modifications of its previous recommendations for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for protection of health care workers (HCW). Available data supports these changes without compromising safety.
As a reminder, full PPE is required when caring for persons under investigation (PUIs) and patients with confirmed COVID-19. This consists of:
- N95 respirator mask
- Eye protection – full face shield MUST be worn over N95 respirator mask.
Beginning immediately, we are implementing the following CDC-approved guidelines for extended use and reuse of N95 respirator masks utilizing full face shields as both eye protection and preservation of the respirator mask.
We are promoting two approved strategies to help maintain the use of N95 respirator masks:
1) Extended use of N95 respirator masks (use if going directly from one patient to another patient) and
2) Re-use of N95 respirator masks (use of the respirator mask at different times which will require placement in a clean plastic bag).
The extended use strategy (Strategy #1)permits staff to don full PPE prior to entering a patient room – gown, gloves, respirator mask, and face shield. After providing care, the HCW removes the gown and gloves, performs hand hygiene, and continues to wear the same shield and respirator mask to care for subsequent patients. As long as the shield and respirator mask have no gross contamination this practice is now permitted.
Reuse of N95 respirator masks (Strategy #2)allows the HCW to remove a clean undamaged N95 respirator mask after patient contact and store that N95 respirator properly for later reuse with the same or another patient.
An educational video has been created to provide you with more details. It is imperative that all staff caring for patients view the video to master both techniques – click here for the video. (This video is also posted to ThePulse).
Please note that when using an N95 respirator mask to perform procedures with high risk of creating aerosols of respiratory secretions, these respirators and the overlying protective eye-shield must be discarded (one-time use). These procedures include administering nebulizer treatments, Intubation/extubation, bronchoscopy, utilization of CPAP and BiPAP, and high-flow nasal cannula (greater than 6 liters/min).
Please be aware that modifications of PPE and infection control guidelines may occur again in the near future as new information about the virus and available resources are reassessed