Health care workers concerned over federal facial protection standards during coronavirus outbreak

WASHINGTON — Doctors and nurses are on the front lines as we combat the spread of the coronavirus and now some health care worker associations said there needs to be more guidance about how they can get the best protection during the outbreak.

Specifically, there are growing concerns about changes the government made to it guidelines for facial protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that "facemasks are an acceptable alternative when the supply chain of respirators cannot meet the demand” during low-risk situations.

"The question is just the why behind it?” Emergency Nurses Association president Mike Hastings said. “We want to make sure it's not just because of a supply chain issue. As health care workers, as nurses, we preach evidence based practice all the time. We want to make sure that we're using evidence based information."


There has been a shortage of the N95 surgical masks.

"That's the biggest challenge right now is where do we get those supplies and how do we free up those supplies so we do have them on the frontlines?" Hastings said.

The CDC said the respirators filter the air and offer respiratory protection while face masks protect the person from splashes and sprays.

"We're going to do everything we can to maintain our own safety and the safety of every patient that's coming in,” Hastings said.

Hastings said two members of the association were diagnosed with coronavirus.

One was an emergency medicine doctor in New Jersey and the other was in Washington state.

Monday, we also learned a doctor at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., also tested positive for the coronavirus.

National Nurses United is calling on Congress to get involved and in a statement, said in part:

“We urge Congress to mandate that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19 protections for health care workers. An OSHA emergency temporary standard is a critical step in ensuring that all nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus response are given the proper respirators and personal protective equipment to safely care for patients with confirmed or potential COVID-19 infection.”

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