HealthCap risk managers have received many questions regarding using N95 respirators versus medical facemasks while caring for residents infected with COVID-19. Per OSHA, N95 respirators are the standard for caring for residents with airborne illness, COVID-19 is spread by droplets, it is NOT airborne, so airborne precautions are not required. However, as with everything we do in healthcare, there is an exception, the use of N95 respirators are recommended if a resident is receiving aerosol treatments (i.e., nebulizers).
Some centers have access to N95 respirators and are using them in place of medical facemasks. This practice is not problematic, as long as staff are aware that the N95 mask will not provide any more protection than a medical facemask if a FIT test has not been done. Per NIOSHA, the N95 respirator is effective ONLY if the mask has been FIT tested using the quantitative or qualitative method. Once this is done for each essential staff member, “seal” tests should be done each time they don their respirator to provide care.
Don’t cut corners, do the right things for the right reasons and always check the CDC and OSHA websites for most up -to-date guidance. Thanks for all you do, be well!