When the WHO (World Health Organization) determined that 2020 would be the Year of the Nurse, who knew that nurses would be at the epicenter of a pandemic? I am concerned that we are putting our nurses and frontline responders at risk.
On March 11, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order to boost the respirator mask supply. Because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, the N95 respirators are in demand. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) loosened its guidelines to allow healthcare workers to wear surgical masks because the supply or N95 respirators cannot meet the supply demands. Also, surgical masks don’t fit as tightly as the preferred N95 masks which can filter out airborne viruses that surgical masks cannot.
The president issued the Executive Order to increase the domestic manufacturing of these masks so that they can be readily available to supply chains.
In the COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation, it required shielding nurses from exposure to the coronavirus with N95 protective equipment. However, the hospital association lobbied against this bill claiming that the protective equipment is not available and that surgical masks are adequate substitutes when a supply of N95 respirators are not available.
The nursing unions are criticizing the physicians claiming, “It is unfortunate that the American Hospital Association is encouraging its member hospitals to adopt minimum rather than optimum standards to protect patients and the doctors, nurses and other staff who care for them. In the face of an exploding global pandemic, running backward is the worst approach the healthcare industry and the CDC should take.”
In addition, the unions say that not having rules mandating N95 masks could hasten the spread of the virus. It is important for Congress to mandate N95 masks because OSHA is unlikely to ask independently. Three TSA workers screening passengers at San Jose, CA contracted COVID-19 while on the job wearing surgical masks.
While N95 masks are more expensive, it should be the standard of care. I am hoping that money will not interfere with our ability to protect our most valuable asset: our healthcare workers. If healthcare workers are not protected and kept safe, then they will not be able to take care of the ever increasing number of patients.
In addition, the National Strategic Stockpile has 13,000,000 masks in stock and the federal government will soon purchase 50,000,000 more N95 respirators, but bids to supply them from companies will be due shortly.
Are you able to use N95 masks in your hospital or are you required to wear masks with face shields?
I would like to read your thoughts and solutions to this problem.