Since the beginning of America’s battle with the novel coronavirus, N95s, the close-fitting respirators worn instead of face masks to protect frontline workers from infectious aerosols and respiratory droplets, have been in short supply. The respirators, most manufactured by 3M and Honeywell, are used globally and act as the crux of personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital staff. Traditionally they are donned and discarded after a single patient examination, but shortages and supply chain issues during the pandemic  have resulted in countless stories of doctors and nurses reusing a single respirator per shift. The shortage has prompted the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that respirators be reserved for aerosolizing procedures only. But rather than accepting the new normal, industrial hygienists, hospitalists, and other healthcare professionals have embraced new technologies and old equipment in an attempt to work around the N95 shortage, and they suggest that health systems do the same before a second wave of infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

 

Credit: iStock, vmargineanu

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