March 23, 2020

CDC updates strategies for optimizing the supply of facemasks

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on March 17 updated its strategies for optimizing personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, including facemasks.

The strategies are based on surge capacity and include:


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*Conventional capacity: Patient care is provided without any change in daily practices. Use facemasks according to product labeling and local, state, and federal requirements.

*Contingency capacity: These practices may be used temporarily during periods of expected facemask shortages. Selectively cancel elective and nonurgent procedures and appointments during which a facemask is typically used. Consider removing facemasks for visitors in public areas.

*Crisis capacity: These measures may need to be considered during periods of known facemask shortages. Cancel all elective and nonurgent surgical procedures and appointments for which a facemask in used by healthcare personnel. Use facemasks beyond their shelf life and implement limited reuse of facemasks, which is the practice of using the same facemask by one healthcare worker for multiple encounters with different patients, but removing it after each encounter. Not all facemasks can be reused.

*When no facemasks are available: Exclude healthcare workers at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 from contact with known or suspected COVID-19 patients. Use a face shield that covers the entire front and sides of face. Healthcare workers might use homemade masks as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE. Caution should be used when considering this option.

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