Prevent transmission first, then address the personal protective equipment supply chain.
Today, the World Health Organization declared the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to be a pandemic. However, on March 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendations and advised that facemasks for clinical providers are an acceptable alternative when there is a shortage of N95 respirators.
As a result, The American Nurses Association has called for a more definitive statement about the transmission of COVID-19 from the CDC. According to an ANA news release, "Nurses must feel confident in this guidance that a medical mask, along with the other required droplet personal protective equipment, is appropriate to provide patient care for known COVID-19 cases."
While, in light of recent events, the ANA acknowledges the difficulty of ensuring an adequate PPE supply, the organization is concerned that the updated CDC recommendations are based solely on supply chain and manufacturing challenges, the news release says. Instead, of focusing on supply chain demands, recommendations should be based on "evidence that reflects a better understanding of the transmission of COVID-19. "
"It’s also concerning that these recommendations do not offer strategies to address the limited manufacturing and supply chain of necessary personal protective equipment," the news release states. "While the interim recommendations may assist in preserving the supply of N95 respirators and other PPE, it could also confuse health care professionals considering appropriate levels of protection that may be needed when caring for a known or suspected patient."
The ANA is asking that the CDC consider the following actions:
- Investigate and communicate on the transmission mode for coronavirus so that decisions about appropriate PPE are based on the best information available.
- Identify metrics for when the interim guidance will be rescinded to ensure that clinical providers and health care facilities can prepare to continue caring for their patients and communities.
"Nurses must trust that the decisions made at all levels are focused on their protection. This is necessary for them to walk into a room every day and to safely continue providing ongoing patient care in all health care settings," the statement says. "ANA supports ongoing efforts to address and stem the spread of COVID-19. We appreciate the efforts of all nurses, members of the health care team, decision makers and the public to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak."
Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.