In this crisis, emergency care teams serve as the front line at a time when identifying those who have COVID-19 is challenging. Given the guidance from the CDC to use droplet precautions that recommend the use of a face mask or surgical mask, ACEP believes that health care personnel (HCP) in the emergency department (ED) and emergency medical services (EMS) should consider wearing a face mask or surgical mask during their entire shift if they are providing patient care, unless the mask becomes soiled and needs replacement.
To preserve PPE until the current shortages are reduced, HCP in the ED and in EMS should consider wearing the same mask for their entire shift. We also understand that close contact during procedures or processes (including a physical examination) that generate potentially infectious aerosols requires a higher level of PPE that includes an N95 respirator.
For more information, review the full policy “COVID-19: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) During the Pandemic.”
Global penetrance of COVID-19 has placed significant stress on the ability to produce and supply appropriate PPE to health care workers. Additionally, the risk pool of known and unknown disease in our communities has greatly challenged our ability to reliably determine patients who are at low risk. For these reasons, ACEP has and will continue to support the use of surgical masks with proper eyewear and other protective equipment for all providers regardless of patient complaint. Processes and procedures that create higher risk, such as close contact and aerosolizing procedures, require full PPE, including N95s.
Because the inadequate PPE supply increases the risk to our physicians, they have taken to buying their own PPE or utilizing donations from other industries. ACEP urges hospitals and other health care facilities to allow physicians to use their donated or self-purchased PPE.
For more information, review the full policy “COVID-19: Use of Donated or Self-Purchased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).”
In addition, review the full policy “Joint Commission Statement on Use of Face Masks Brought From Home” and the CDC’s “Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Burn Rate Calculator.”