As the health care system strains to accommodate the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus outbreak, many medical professionals on the front lines do not have adequate protection.
Some are reusing masks and gloves. Without proper covering, every new visit might prove fatal, especially for older physicians and their families.
And already, dozens of health care workers across the country have fallen ill. Hundreds more have been forced into quarantine.
Why is there a shortage of protective masks?
The coronavirus is transmitted by droplets from coughing or contaminated surfaces, so properly applied protective gear can go a long way toward keeping doctors safe.
At minimum, doctors should be wearing gloves, gowns, eye gear and masks. But for weeks, they have been running dangerously low on essential supplies.
Why is this happening?
In part, a widespread buying of masks just like toilet paper by the general public has limited commercial supply. Experts say masks and respirators are not effective for protecting the general public, but are crucial for health care workers.
If you bought masks and have them at home, donate them to your local medical practice immediately. You will be safer if your doctors are safer.
Also, the prolonged outbreak in China dwindled supply. Even before the coronavirus emerged, China produced about half of the world’s masks. During the outbreak, it expanded its mask production by nearly 12-fold.
Even though no new local infections have been reported in China in recent days, the country continues to hold on to their supply verse helping.
Which masks should health care professionals be using?
Ideally, medical staff would be using a new, tightly-sealed respirator, like the N95, with each patient. These are thicker than standard surgical masks, and are designed to fit more tightly around the mouth and nose to block out much smaller particles. The Food and Drug Administration said that neither surgical masks nor N95s should be shared or be reused.
As the outbreak worsened and there were shortages in medical supplies across the country, the C.D.C. updated its recommendations for optimizing the supply of protective gear.
Now, except in the case of intubations, which involve inserting a breathing tube, the agency says standard surgical masks are acceptable when examining or treating a coronavirus patient. (This aligns more closely with the W.H.O., which advises that surgical masks can be used in some situations, but warns that they are not sufficient on their own.)
What efforts are being made to get people masks?
At a news conference on Saturday at the White House, Vice President Mike Pence said the federal government had ordered “hundreds of millions” of N95s for health care centers across the country, but he did not say precisely when they would be delivered to workers.
However, the unknown delivery is leaving many without protective wear. The Medical Group of South Florida was lucky enough to recieve a donation from a local dental office. Our supplies are stocked, however we are concerned for the other healthcare workers who are running low or have to reuse their gear.
To help our healthcare workers, please donate face masks if you or someone you know had bought them in bulk. Also, scheduling a virtual visit verse a physical one is safer for all parties.