COVID-19 is surging again in America and other places and so is the shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals. Since the outbreak first hit the United States in February, we have witnessed an immense increase in the demand for all kinds of PPE including the very important N95 respirator. This was also directly proportional to the increase in coronavirus cases every day as many newer cases were emerging each minute. America’s healthcare system and economy-both took a very hard hit because of this pandemic but luckily the cases had started to subside and the government had also managed to acquire PPE for many of its hospitals but the recent surge in cases has again led to a shortage of PPE
Many US states are reportedly struggling to get their hands on PPE and due to this scarcity, many hospitals have also begun to direct their staff to start reusing their N95 particulate respirators. Since N95 respirators are disposable and were created for the public with the common aim of discarding them after each use- reusing an N95 mask could be adverse for a healthcare worker. Healthcare staff, be it, nurses, doctors, or anyone working in a hospital will be exposed to this virus on countless occasions and no one can guarantee the efficacy of a disposable N95 that is being reused. In conclusion, this practice is severely dangerous for everyone involved.
Minnesota, a mid-western state in the US bordering the country of Canada is stuck in a similar situation as well. The state reported 35 deaths in a single day on the 22nd of October, attesting to the fact that a surge in cases is happening right now in this state. The healthcare workers and researchers are also expecting a further surge in the time to come. The state isn’t doing too well but another major problem that’s taking place in this territory is the shortage of N95 masks that are being curbed by the reuse strategy.
A survey was conducted by some researchers in Minnesota who went on to interview some hospital nurses about the PPE shortage and the majority of them expressed their distress about the reuse strategy and how it was futile. An N95 loses its effectiveness when being overused or sterilized, it remains about as good as wearing no mask at all. Some nurses were so worried about this plummeting situation that they were left with no other choice but to leave their jobs. The reuse strategy first started getting popular in Minnesota during the first wave back in March and the problem still hasn’t been resolved.
What’s causing this shortage?
The reason for this shortage can’t exactly be pinpointed as there is more than a single contributing factor to this problem. But it’s largely the government’s fault for not being able to acquire sufficient PPE for all the hospitals in the country and also for not managing the distribution of the recently acquired N95s properly. Even though Trump had signed the DPA back in March which required N95 manufacturers to deliver this in-demand respirator in bulk quantities in a short time, the hospitals in Minnesota still didn’t have sufficient PPE.
It has also been reported that N95s are being rationed in the state, there is a stockpile of N95 masks present somewhere in Minnesota, but it’s not being ordered by the hospitals. The reason behind the rationing remains unknown but what is more than evident is the agony through which all frontline workers are going through right now because of this crisis.
What could happen if the shortage remains for long?
Since people are anticipating a surge in coronavirus cases in the state of Minnesota, and with the imposition of the constant reuse strategy, we can expect the death rate to be immensely higher this time. Also, if the rationing remains then the healthcare sector will be largely affected by this surge and a large portion of the casualties will also be reported from this sector. Aside from this, the current circumstances in this state are also forcing many hard-working and dedicated medical workers to leave their jobs because of the state’s inability to provide newer N9s to the workers which could also badly affect the healthcare system as medical workers are needed at this time now more than ever.
The healthcare workers of Minnesota are distressed in light of this situation and seek relief from their employers and the government. But the question is when and how will this shortage end and most importantly how did it come to be? In the early days of the virus, the shortage was excusable but at this time, it quite isn’t.
When the coronavirus first began to spread in the states at the end of February, the world was in a state of haste and anxiety. What followed was hoarding and high demand for N95 respirators which started selling like hotcakes to the point when none were left for healthcare workers. However, after some time the government had managed to acquire PPE for their healthcare workers but the state of Minnesota is still submerged in this problem.
According to the workers, N95s are available in the states but are being withheld from the workers. Hospitals are directing the staff to reuse N95s which is a problem of its own. In conclusion, this problem is quite alarming as a new surge in the cases is expected which will further worsen the condition.