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Monday, April 13, 2020

Using masks from home during the COVID-19 pandemic

At this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a growing concern for some time. For healthcare professionals, the situation is becoming dire both at home and abroad. In some cases, nurses have had to bring in their own PPE. In a recent statement, The Joint Commission declared its support for healthcare professionals who bring in their own "standard facemasks and respirators" when their facility is otherwise unable to provide the necessary PPE.

The Joint Commission statement acknowledged that hospitals must conserve PPE to protect those performing high-risk procedures. The organization also recognized the uncertainly surrounding the use of privately owned masks or respirators in clinical settings, but it emphasized that no Joint Commission standards currently prohibit this practice. Additionally, the statement went on to note that homemade masks such as scarves and bandanas are not considered PPE. Although the CDC recently recommended the public wear cloth masks in addition to established social distancing practices, these are "an extreme measure" for healthcare professionals that should be used only as a last resort if proven PPE is unavailable.

As US healthcare professionals persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has stressed the need for citizens to protect themselves and others. To address shortages and prioritize resources related to COVID-19, President Trump invoked the Defense Protection Act in an executive order on March 18, 2020,  giving (among other provisions) wide powers of allocation to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Hopefully, these provisions will help protect frontline healthcare professionals such as nurses when they need it most.