By Rehan Iqbal
When it comes to the unprecedented time the world finds itself in, the first question people have is, “Do I need to wear PPE?” In fact, most people do so, regardless of whether they need it. At the beginning, this wasn’t a significant issue because it was readily available from many sources.
However, the US has now seen more cases than any other country, and the number of new cases continues to rise. Though many people have recovered, there have been multiple deaths. With that comes uncertainty, fear, and the rush to panic-buy a variety of items. Though toilet paper and food are high on the panic-buy list, facemasks and other PPE are a close second.
With the demand rising for personal protective equipment, suppliers can’t keep up. Therefore, the question now becomes, who needs to be wearing PPE and who doesn’t.
Everyone in the healthcare industry isn’t going to need to wear PPE. Doctors and nurses should always wear appropriate personal protective equipment when handling patients, especially those who have COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 symptoms.
These can include:
As stated earlier, there has been a significant shortage of masks, especially N95 masks, which are the best defense against coronavirus in all its forms. However, no one can get them right now because of the high demand. Surgical masks are the next best thing, but many hospitals are short on those, too. Therefore, homemade masks are becoming more popular.
There isn’t much research on how well they work against coronavirus and other respiratory viruses. Still, it is better than nothing. Of course, face shields should be worn with makeshift masks to help reduce your risk of catching coronavirus.
Generally, first responders include firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technician personnel, and the like. It is ideal for all of these people to wear personal protective equipment when dealing with the public, especially with the pandemic.
In most cases, firefighters and police officers should wear protective masks and gloves when handling people who may have symptoms or the virus. Many times, you do not know if the person is infected, so it is best to be cautious at all times. EMTs must also wear masks and gloves, but eye protection is essential, too. Again, it’s sometimes impossible to tell if someone is infected with the virus, especially if they are asymptomatic.
Again, the issue is that there isn’t enough of this PPE to go around. First responders can wear makeshift personal protective equipment, but there haven’t been enough studies done to determine how effective it is at preventing the spread of the virus.
Those who feel uncomfortable without PPE may feel better with the cloth barrier, such as through a homemade mask or a bandana. In this case, the best way to prevent yourself from getting coronavirus is to use preventative measures, such as:
Patients with Coronavirus or Expected to Have It
Any patient who has coronavirus (any strain) or is believed to have it does not need to wear PPE, including a face mask, at all times. However, it is wise to request that they put one before being evaluated by the doctor or nurse. If people are self-isolating with the virus, PPE can also be worn to protect others in the household.
Remember, coronavirus can last 72 hours on plastics and 24 hours on cardboard. Any food and beverage containers should be thrown away or sanitized after use. It might also be ideal for the caregiver to wear disposable gloves while handling these items.
The General Public
At this time, the CDC does not recommend that everyone wear face masks or gloves at all times. Even when you are out for essential things, it isn’t likely to help. Instead, it is best to follow preventative actions, such as covering your mouth when you cough, washing your hands properly, and staying at home if you feel sick.
At this time, the CDC and local government officials are asking that people with medical PPE donate it to local hospitals to help protect healthcare workers who must be around patients with the disease.
Also, many people have started making homemade masks to donate to hospitals and first responders. This can be a way to feel like you are helping out during this crisis. You can find templates on how to make the masks, tips for the types of materials to use, and instructions on sewing them online.
Again, this may not do much to prevent the spread, but even the CDC recommends it over nothing at all.
Regardless of who you are, the threat of coronavirus and catching it is real. It has gotten to the point where healthcare workers don’t have ready access to personal protective equipment, making it harder to stay safe from the virus while they treat others with it.
While some people want to protect themselves and their families, PPE is not recommended for the general public. For one, there isn’t enough of it to go around. For another, there isn’t much research on how well it works to reduce your risk of getting coronavirus.
Though some people really do need PPE to help keep them safe from body fluids and airborne germs, it is quite hard to find right now. Preventative measures and homemade masks are your best defense right now during this coronavirus pandemic.