Supplies of N95 respirators can become depleted during a pandemic. Existing CDC guidelines recommend a combination of approaches to conserve supplies while safeguarding health care workers in such circumstances. These existing guidelines recommend that health care institutions:
- Minimize the number of individuals who need to use respiratory protection;
- Use alternatives to N95 respirators where feasible;
- Implement practices allowing extended use and/or limited reuse of N95 respirators, and
- Prioritize the use of N95 respirators for that personnel at the highest risk of contracting or experiencing complications of infection.
For our therapy professionals who are using or will need to use an N95 respirator, storage in a paper bag has been recommended. Here is another idea for storage of this mask.
Many healthcare professionals will be using cloth face coverings. Per the CDC, cloth face coverings should:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
Some sites have ordered and will be using American knits masks. America Knits is part of a consortium with Hanes to provide 5-6 million masks to FEMA per week. As part of that consortium, America Knits will be providing about 500,000 masks for FEMA per month. Their mask has several properties that make it unique:
- It has antimicrobial/antiviral properties impregnated into the fabric.
- The mask is reusable/washable. The antimicrobial properties are guaranteed to last 20 wash cycles. They have washed masks 50 times that still retain their anti-microbial properties.
- The entire mask is made in the US. The raw material and production are all based in the US.
- 30,000 masks have been ordered by both North Mississippi Health System and the University of Alabama Birmingham Health System
- The mask is FDA approved and is currently being provided to FEMA
Click here for more information about American knits masks.
Additional guidelines for the use of cloth face masks:
- They should be machine washed daily with your regular work clothes and dried on a high heat setting.
- Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing.
- American knits cloth face masks are reusable through 20 wash cycles.
Instructions for a no-sew face mask using a coffee filter, bandana and hair ties (or rubber bands):