Reuse of masks, PPE shortages still a concern

June 17, 2020

While there has been some good news about increased production of PPE and plenty of upbeat stories about companies from a variety of industries shifting gears to help out during the pandemic, reports of limited critical supplies are still drawing concern.

While there has been some good news about increased production of PPE and plenty of upbeat stories about companies from a variety of industries shifting gears to help out during the pandemic, reports of limited critical supplies are still drawing concern.

The concerns come amid a growing increase in demand for PPE such as gowns and masks as states reopen and elective surgeries and dental procedures resume.

In an Internal Federal Emergency Management Agency document released June 9, it was stated that the demand for gowns outpaces the current capabilities of U.S. Manufacturing.

The document confirms the fears of nurses and other health care providers, according to an article published online by Roll Call, a Capital Hill News Source. After months of pressure on federal officials to use wartime powers to mobilize U.S. plants, the document's slides show that domestic manufacturing of gowns and surgical masks has increased since the pandemic hit, but not enough to prevent from falling well short of demands. 

Related Reading: In novel and familiar ways, dental companies help respond to COVID-19

Five months after the pandemic first hit U.S. shores-and after several weeks of lockdown and economic collapse to prepare for a surge of cases-critical personal protective equipment such as surgical gowns and masks continues to face a national shortage, the Roll Call states.

The internal document indicates FEMA’s plan to ramp up supply into June and July hinges on the reusing of N95 masks and surgical gowns. These types of PPE are recommended to be disposed of after one use to decrease the risk of contamination.  

Hundreds of health care workers have died from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even as FEMA has mobilized to increase PPE supplies, it’s been hit with criticism, especially for raiding and redirecting state-purchased supplies and for not providing details about how it determines which hospitals and nursing homes get priority. For weeks into the pandemic, FEMA distributed stockpile equipment to states and cities based in part on per capita population rather than the severity of the disease’s spread.

On the bright side, reports state FEMA anticipates an increase in the supply of N95 respirator masks in the fall as contracts funded through pandemic relief laws cleared by Congress in March and April are fulfilled.

The Food and Drug Administration also issued a safety alert recently that N95 respirators imported from China should not be decontaminated and reused.

Click here to read how one company is decontaminating N95 respirators.