COVID-19 Researcher wearing PPE

Rene Cantu

COVID-19 PPE Usage According to the CDC


COVID-19 PPE usage

Although PPE usage is second nature to PIs, it’s worth reiterating some important points. Especially now that we’ve found ourselves in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we’ll take a look at some common PPE questions. We will refer to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as our source for answering these important questions. 

Per the CDC’s website, “The best way to prevent disease transmission is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls.”

The website further explains, “This results in a greater degree of protection than a single method and provides backup in the event one control intervention fails, becomes less effective, or even unavailable. Veterinarians should increase focus on engineering and administrative controls before considering how they can safely extend the life of disposable PPE during times of a national shortage.”

Here are some relevant questions regarding COVID-19 PPE usage:

Can disposable PPE be reused when supplies are low?

No. The CDC states that most PPE is made to be used one time and by one person before trashing. However, the CDC does explain that the case is different for gowns and surgical masks. “These products were made as prophylactic barriers. So, the FDA assures us that they might still offer some protection even when they are used beyond their recommended amount of time.”

It should be noted that you should check these products for tears, holes, or compromised areas before deciding to reuse. 

What are N95 respirators?

This device is used as a filtration system that defends against airborne particles. According to the CDC website, “The ‘N95’ designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks. However, even a properly fitted N95 respirator does not completely eliminate the risk of illness or death.”

What exactly does “reuse” mean in the technical sense?

The CDC defines this term as the practice of using the same product for multiple patient interactions. That includes removing the PPE after each encounter. For N95 respirators, they should be stored in between encounters before the next interaction with a patient. Per the CDC site, “When N95 respirator reuse is recommended, restrictions are in place which limit the number of times the same respirator is reused. This is called limited reuse. Limited reuse is an option for conserving respirators during previous pandemics.”

If there’s a shortage of PPE can I still reuse cloth gowns?

Reusable cloth gowns were approved by the FDA. The CDC recommends strongly that reusable cloth gowns be “laundered thoroughly and sterilized.” The site goes on to explain that this “can reduce the level of pathogen contamination to a negligible level, thus lowering the overall risk of disease.”

COVID PPE usage is surely on the mind of every American now. Not just health care professionals. Thankfully, the FDA and CDC are rich resources to refer to when researching PPE and its various uses and reuses. By adhering to the recommendations of these two organizations, we can minimize our exposure to various diseases and contaminations.