The United States, along with the rest of the world, has been facing a difficult situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Countless deaths and ill people around the world, unemployment, and the uncertainty of a new virus that has been the focus of research and hard work by scientists and healthcare workers across the globe.
Personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly N95 masks, have been the center of attention during this time, and with good reason. Shortages of medical supplies have been hitting healthcare centers around the world, with very concerning results. Today, we’ll talk about a specific type of healthcare center, nursing homes, and why they need N95 masks to be available always.
N95 mask requirements for nursing homes
A nursing home is a place for taking care of the elderly or people with any type of disability. Other names used to refer to them include skilled nursing facility (SNF), convalescent care or convalescent homes, old people's homes, rest homes, care homes, or long-term care facilities. These facilities are filled with high-risk populations for COVID-19, so special care should be taken towards preventing infection inside them.
In general, all healthcare workers need to wear a face mask at all times inside the facility. For them, regular face masks, like surgical or medical ones, are always preferred over reusable cloth masks.
Personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes surgical or medical face masks, N95 respirators, and other types of medical-grade face coverings like KN95 masks or face shields, are required in certain situations when residents inside the facility develop symptoms that suggest COVID-19 infection. Until the test results confirm whether or not the resident is infected, all healthcare personnel should wear an N95 respirator or higher-level respirators when caring for the resident.
If a respirator isn’t available, face masks can be used instead. The respirator or face mask should be accompanied by eye protection devices, like goggles or face shields, a gown, and gloves. Needless to say, respirators or face masks can’t be replaced for a cloth mask in healthcare workers in situations when PPE is required.
For residents, the rules are more flexible, and they can wear either a cloth face covering or a face mask, but only if they’re tolerated, any time they have to leave their room. Exceptions in which cloth face coverings shouldn’t be used include children under 2 years old, people who have trouble breathing, or in situations when the person can’t remove the mask without assistance, for example, unconscious or incapacitated people. When visitors are allowed into the facility, cloth face masks are also recommended.
For PPE, an inventory is necessary to always know how much of it is available. When PPE shortages are happening, these facilities can use contacts in the health department for assistance. The inventory must be monitored daily to identify when they’re running low.
Strategies to optimize the current PPE in the inventory, as recommended by the CDC, have to be implemented before shortages occur. Some of these strategies include bundling resident care and treatment procedures so entries into the resident rooms are minimized, or extended use of respirators and face masks.
Why are N95 masks important in places like nursing homes?
N95 masks, which are respirators, are the best face mask for virus protection. They have antiviral properties that other disposable face masks don’t have. They are a part of the classification of respirators established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This classification is the standard for respirators inside the USA.
According to it, N95 masks are respirators that aren’t resistant to oil, which is indicated by the letter N, and can filter out at least 95% of all airborne particles, indicated by the number 95. The classification includes many other combinations of letters and numbers, the first indicating resistance to oil, the latter indicating the percentage of minimum particulate filtration efficacy. This way, you can also find N99, P100, or R95 respirators out there.
These characteristics in N95 respirators make them effective for protection against non-oil based particles, including dust, coal smoke, so you can find N95 respirators in workplaces like construction or mining sites. Such particles also include microorganisms like the flu virus or the coronavirus, which is why you can also sometimes find N95 masks in healthcare centers. But, especially right now during the pandemic, N95 masks are highly needed in these centers.
The efficacy of this mask for protection against viruses is important because it can be used by healthcare workers who are highly exposed to the coronavirus. The general public can use reusable cloth masks when they’re in public settings because they aren’t at that much of a risk of getting infected as long as they take social distancing measures and hygiene rules.
However, healthcare personnel are constantly exposed to the risk of getting infected, that’s why the use of these masks need to be prioritized for them. Inside nursing homes, residents can get infected, and healthcare providers need to be protected so they can properly take care of them.
If you’re looking to buy PPE in bulk or wholesale, there are many options for sale online, including the best 3M N95 masks like the 3M 8210 or the 3M 8511. We would like to remind our readers that kids don’t get proper protection from adult-sized face masks and that there are plenty of options in a smaller size online as well.
Anyone who uses the correct face covering is helping their community get through these difficult times, so make sure to stay protected in public settings.