Nursing & Healthcare News

ANA Asks for Clarity on COVID-19 PPE

Changing CDC recommendations lead to confusion for nurses

A surgical mask and N-95 mask lay next to each other on a black background

With spiraling demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) among healthcare providers and the public alike, the CDC keeps changing its PPE recommendations for dealing with COVID-19. The ANA is now asking for “a more definitive statement” about appropriate PPE for healthcare workers.

The Respirator Question

Mask or respirator? That’s the central question behind the CDC’s ever-changing PPE guidance for healthcare workers dealing with known or suspected cases of COVID-19.

In early March, CDC guidance recommended respirators for direct contact with patients who may have the 2019 novel coronavirus. In fact, the CDC went so far as to ask the FDA to authorize emergency use of some N95 respirators that aren’t FDA-approved for healthcare settings, hoping to mitigate supply issues.

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Then, on March 10, the CDC responded to reports of mounting respirator shortages by issuing updated guidance declaring that if a facility is short on respirators, medical masks (along with eye protection, gowns and gloves) are “an acceptable alternative,” letting hospitals save scarce respirators for higher-risk aerosol-generating procedures.

On March 17, CDC suggested that providers use face shields or improvised masks if medical masks are unavailable.

Evidence, Please

The ANA worries that the ever-changing CDC guidance is “based solely on supply chain and manufacturing challenges” rather than on clinical research.

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“Rationale for changes of this magnitude should be based on evidence that reflects a better understanding of the transmission of COVID-19,” the ANA said in a March 11 news release, adding that CDC also needs to make clear when the interim recommendations may be rescinded so as to avoid confusing nurses and other providers about what PPE is appropriate.

The ANA also expressed concern that the CDC hasn’t offered any strategies for tackling the manufacturing and supply chain issues that are making masks, respirators and other PPE so scarce during this pandemic.

Editor’s Note: The CDC website has the most-updated version of the agency’s COVID-19 guidelines.

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