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Home Specialties Emergency Medicine Healthcare Workers Lack Protective Gear on the Frontline of COVID-19

Healthcare Workers Lack Protective Gear on the Frontline of COVID-19

Originally published 4/3/20.

Healthcare professionals are facing a frightening shortage of protective gear to keep themselves and their patients safe on the job, as the number of coronavirus cases in the nation soared to more than 500,000 this week

Officials reported the U.S. does not have enough stockpiled personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gowns and gloves, to meet surging demands. According to a survey by Premier, a healthcare improvement company, hospitals have ranked the supply of N95 respirators as their top concern, calculating a surge need of up to 17x higher. Here’s a look at the numbers:

  • Demand for face shields: 8.6x higher
  • Demand for viral swabs: 6x higher
  • Demand for isolation gowns: 5x higher
  • Demand for surgical masks: 3x higher

Amidst mounting pressure, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, last used during the Korean War era, to ramp up production of equipment in short supply. Many companies have been working hard to address the urgent need, but some warn the demand for supplies may exceed production capacity.

Clinicians have taken to social media, using the hashtag #GetMePPE to share their experiences and urge elected officials to act fast. Many reported having to reuse face shields, and some are crafting their own masks.

With supplies dwindling, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidelines, supporting providers’ DIY initiatives to protect themselves from infection. The new guidelines advise struggling HCPs to “use homemade masks (e.g. bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort.”

Check out how some HCPs across the country are raising awareness about the issue:

Take a look at these additional CDC guidelines on how to optimize supplies:

References:

‘It Feels Like a War Zone’: Doctors and Nurses Plead for Masks on Social Media, New York Times.

Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Trump Invokes A Cold War Relic, The Defense Production Act, For Coronavirus Shortages, NPR.

Trump compelled these companies to make critical supplies, but most of them were already doing it, CNBC.

3M CEO says demand for N95 masks exceeds capacity as Trump invokes Defense Production Act, MarketWatch.

Last updated 4/3/20

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