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COVID-19 Response: How to Donate Surplus Respirators to Protect Health Care Personnel

  • Published
  • 25 March 2020
  • Category
  • General

By WorkCare

Health care personnel on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. are facing a critical shortage of infection control personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a joint letter, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the American Industrial Hygiene Association – in collaboration with the American Hospital Association – encourage industrial facilities to donate surplus respirators to health care providers. Respiratory protection is needed for those in close contact with COVID-19 patients because the virus is spread via infected droplets expelled by coughing and sneezing.

What is Needed?

Types of PPE that can help reduce exposure risk include N-95 and P-95 respirators that are often used as “voluntary comfort masks,” as well as N-99, N-100, P-99 and P-100 respirators, according to the organizations promoting the donation campaign.

respirator covers at least the nose and mouth. Airborne biological agents such as bacteria or viruses can be filtered by particulate respirators. Respirators are labeled “N” if they are not resistant to oil, “R” if somewhat resistant to oil and “P” if strongly resistant to oil (i.e., oil-proof). Numbers indicate the percentage of protection. For example, an N-95 respirator filters out at least 95 percent of airborne particles during worst-case testing.

OSHA Guidance

On March 14, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Temporary Enforcement Guidance – Healthcare Respiratory Protection Annual Fit-Testing for N95 Filtering Facepieces During the COVID-19 Outbreak in which it permits the use of industrial-style filtering facepiece respirators in health care settings:

“…Health care employers may provide health care personnel with another respirator of equal or higher protection, such as N-99 or N-100 filtering facepieces, reusable elastomeric respirators with appropriate filters or cartridges, or powered air purifying respirators (PAPR). Another measure is that health care employers may change the method of fit testing from a destructive method (i.e., quantitative) to a non-destructive method (i.e., qualitative). For filtering facepiece respirators, qualitative and quantitative fit-testing methods are both effective at determining whether the respirator fits properly.” (See 29 CFR § 1910.134, Appendix A, Fit Testing Procedures. The fitted respirator can then be safely used for work tasks that require respiratory protection. For additional guidance, see Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N-95 Respirators.)

How to Donate

To ensure proper medical supplies are delivered to areas with the greatest need, the following donation methods are recommended:

  1. National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
  2. Organizations with regional or national scope are advised to collaborate with group purchasing organizations such as Premier and Vizient. Contact Byron.jobe@vizientinc.com or susan_devore@premierinc.com
  3. To donate supplies directly to local hospitals, check first with their administrative office (procurement officer or supply chain manager).
  4. Search PPE donation opportunities by state.
  5. Make a monetary donation to Direct Relief, which distributes medical supplies to health care facilities.

With every donation, the level of protection increases, illness is prevented and lives are saved.

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