By Jayden Mark
Coronavirus first hit the news in December of 2019 when it became known that people in Wuhan, China had it. However, it soon migrated to other parts of the world and is currently running amok in the United States. The CDC immediately went into action, working with the President to put warnings in place. Initially, the CDC told people to go to their local hospitals if they had symptoms of the disease, but now, people are being told to stay home and self-isolate unless things get severe.
Part of this recommendation comes from the fact that health care workers can’t get access to the recommended PPE they need to protect themselves.
At first, the CDC warned that health care personnel and first responders should use N95 respirators when dealing with COVID-19 patients. However, those were quickly used up, and no one can get supplies to their hospitals.
Therefore, what few N95 respirators are left are being given to healthcare employees only for procedures that involve small particles (aerosols). For example, you should wear an N95 respirator when you are intubating critically-ill patients so that they can breathe a little easier.
What Types of PPE Should They Wear
Of course, all health care workers must wear appropriate personal protective equipment when working, regardless of who they are seeing and what symptoms they possess. These can include gloves, gowns, eye protection, and more. Let’s talk about these now:
Coronavirus symptoms include coughing and sneezing, which means particles (aerosols) can go everywhere if the ill person doesn’t cover their mouth. Therefore, gloves are essential. If you happen to touch a table or surface that hadn’t been disinfected, you are still protected from the virus with the use of appropriate gloves.
Healthcare workers should also wear gloves when touching an infected person. This protects you from getting the germs on your hands, which could be transferred to your eyes or face. Coronavirus is spread primarily when those germs get into the body. The primary way for this to occur is through the nose, eyes, and mouth.
Protective gear should also include a gown to cover your clothing. Currently, it isn’t clear how long coronavirus can last on clothing, but it can survive 72 hours on plastic and 24 hours on cardboard. It’s always best to focus on prevention, so protecting your clothes with a surgical or medical gown made of polyethylene and nonwoven fabrics are ideal. These can be tossed into the wash and cleaned using very hot water to kill the germ.
While the eyes are the portal to the soul, they are also an easy way for germs to get into the body, including coronavirus. Whenever health care workers are dealing with COVID-19 patients, eye protection, such as safety goggles, is essential.
Though it might make you look odd, and some patients might get a little worried, face shields are often the best choice for working with COVID-19 patients. Not only does it protect your eyes, but it also protects you from aerosols while you are right in front of the patient. Nothing is 100 percent effective; you still need to use common sense and preventative measures, but this is another barrier between you and the virus.
Air Purifying Respirators
Air-purifying respirators are often called APRs in the medical industry. They work to remove vapors, aerosols, and gases from the air you breathe through their cartridges, filters, and canisters. There are a variety of styles and options on the market. Still, with the COVID-19 pandemic on the rise and the US having the most cases, these are also in short supply.
Powered air-purifying respirators are not often used in the medical industry, but some hospitals may have access to them. They come complete with face shields and look like a helmet that covers the entire face and back of the head. This prevents anything from contaminating the air you breathe. Attached to the back of the mask is a hose, which connects to the power source and is strapped to your waist.
These can be reused, but they must be properly sterilized after each use. The CDC does not require you to wear these, as they are hard to find. However, if you already have them on-site, they are appropriate to wear against the spread of Coronavirus from patients to health care workers.
Though mentioned earlier, it is important to know what an N95 respirator is and how it works. It often comes in a box and is a one-time-use product. N95 respirators include a filter so that if someone with coronavirus coughs or sneezes on you, these particles are filtered out to help protect you.
Of course, the CDC recommends that you wear this type of mask, but it is nearly impossible because there is a short supply of them in every hospital throughout the nation.
This mask removes up to 95 percent of all .3 micron particles, hence the name. They also feature a nonwoven polypropylene fabric, which is ideal.
It’s important to understand what PPE is recommended by your hospital (or place of work), as well as the CDC and OSHA. Currently, hospitals and doctor’s offices are finding it harder to buy these items, as they are in short supply. Manufacturers are working tirelessly to make more and get them to the facilities, but this is a slow process.
Many hospitals are reaching out to PPE providers and suppliers in the hopes that they can cut out the middle-man and get the equipment their health care workers desperately need.
Without appropriate personal protective equipment, healthcare employees risk catching Coronavirus, spreading it to other patients, and taking it home to their families. With this threat looming large, it is up to everyone to ensure that PPE gets where it needs to go to help those on the front lines stay protected.