Many people in my family work in hospitals and other emergency centers, which has given me an inside look into the hardships and trials that come with being a nurse or doctor. Obviously, I would not claim that I truly understand the difficulties they face firsthand, but I have spoken to them, seen how it has affected them, and how it most likely affects many in the field. It’s unbelievably tough work. Doctors and nurses are doing dangerous tasks that puts them at risk of getting sick, or even worse in many people’s eyes, getting those they love sick, by the work they are doing. With the dispersal of the various vaccines, it may be a little easier for our medical personnel to breathe and sleep at night, but there are still some things people should know.
Most doctors and nurses probably already know this, but it is still important to share for those of you who may run into a similar situation. There are a set of CDC mandated guidelines for the extended use and reusability of n95 masks. First and foremost, that extended use is favored over reuse of masks, simply because it would involve less direct hand to mask touching, which would mean a smaller chance of contamination. Second is that even if there are no other n95 masks available, always discard your mask if it is contaminated by any foriegn materials. Blood and other bodily fluids like nasal secretions will ruin the mask, making them unusable. It is also highly recommended that after interacting with Covid-19 positive individuals that the masks be discarded, so as not to carry the particles of the virus with you on the mask and push them out with your own breath. A damaged n95 mask should never be used, especially if the mask becomes significantly harder to breathe through than normal. All that said, following these simple guidelines and making sure that your mask is never touched by hands or other contaminating objects will ensure that the n95 can last at least a few hours longer than usual each day.
This is not a guarantee of safety, nor one that means your mask will be usable day after day. This is simply a small set of the guidelines set out by the CDC on a matter that is relevant to many emergency staff around the country. It is not a perfect situation, and our medical staff should have easy access to equipment like n95 respirator masks at all times. We do not live in a perfect world, but as we learn and change our tactics, as companies like DocPPE step forward to fill gaps in the manufacturing of medical grade n95 masks, there is no better time to remember that we will do everything we can to make sure that we can help them stay safe, and help their families stay safe. The best way to do that? Follow the basics, wash our hands with soap and water, maintain social distancing of at least six feet, and always remember to Mask Up!