The latest recommendations for face masks from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could further prevent medical workers from accessing personal protective equipment, which has been an ongoing battle since the COVID-19 pandemic began, experts say.
In February, the CDC released a series of guidelines proposing that the public may take certain medical-grade masks as protection against COVID-19. Regulators stated that N95 respirators – the gold standard for COVID-19 protection in the medical community and a requirement under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration & # 39 ;s respiratory standards – "should not be used outside care settings as they should be reserved for health care [1
The issue in health care is that since the lack of N95 masks – which filter out 95% of the particles – is still a problem, some medical facilities have relied on the less protective KN95 masks for employees who do not work directly with COVID-19 patients, says Dr. Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association in Silver Springs, Ma ryland.
"The new standard that suggests that the public wears KN95 may interfere with the available range of healthcare," he said.
Bill Schwacke, Philadelphia-based health care manager for technology company Origami Risk LLC, said the pressure for more medical masks in general is to "exacerbate" hospital system supply chain problems.
The new CDC guidelines have "a direct impact on their supply chain," he said.
The CDC did not respond to a request for comment on the mask.
On October 2, 2020, months into a well-documented shortage of N95 masks, OSHA announced that medical facilities facing a shortage of personal protective equipment could use " discretion "in what to provide workers. For many, this meant the issuance of KN95 masks, which are approved in other countries.
The cause of the confusion is media reports urging everyone to wear the more protective N95 masks, according to Get Us PPE
"Recently … some writers and public health professionals have recommended that the public buy N95s," a Get Us PPE spokeswoman wrote in an email. does not agree with this advice – as does the CDC – because there is a serious and worsening shortage in the N95s, and we must save them for healthcare professionals. "
Mr Schwacke from Origami said that demand on N95 masks has also created problems with counterfeit masks in the market.
Reusing masks is another dilemma. According to the OSHA standard, N95 masks must be worn once and discarded. Since the pandemic began, most workers have reused them, says Dr. Grant.
"They ask healthcare professionals to reuse the mask for three, four or five days and then sterilize them," he said. "We are in a crisis and there is a shortage, and this process is allowed, but the first guidelines are that they should be used once and discarded. It is still a problem we have, says Dr. Grant.
Another problem, according to those who help healthcare facilities deal with legal risks, concerns OSHA, which has cited hundreds of medical facilities in the last 12 months for breaches of breathing standards.
"Our customers have been reporting worm shortages and difficulty getting respiratory protection since the start of the pandemic," said Adam Young, a Chicago-based workplace safety and environmental partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP. He said the company is aware of OSHA citing medical facilities for COVID-19 violations, often alleging breaches of respiratory protection regulations, despite the lack.
Andrew Brought, a lawyer in OSHA practice at Spencer Fane LLP in Kansas City, Missouri, said that the problems of buying N95 masks will continue, and that any call for the public to wear such masks "poses a dilemma and challenge. for healthcare professionals and their employers because they are the ones most at risk. "
" Everything is the same, given the variants (of COVID-19) that are now coming out, double masking and N95 are meaningful, but we are not at the point where all things are equal, "he said." PPE should be addressed to all the employers (with employees) who are part of the high-risk groups. "
Mr Brought said that health care systems facing OSHA citations should "show that they have taken a variety of measures" to obtain adequate levels of personal protective equipment. "I believe that these devices (cited) have a fairly strong basis for being able to push back against the published quotes. "