Mask shortage prompts CDC to advise healthcare workers to use a bandana or scarf as a ‘last resort’


  • The increasing number of coronavirus cases has dwindled the supply of protective medical equipment, compromising the safety of healthcare workers on the front lines.
  • The severe shortage of face masks has prompted the CDC to suggest using bandanas or scarves as “a last resort.”
  • Homemade or improvised masks are not enough protection, however, so extra caution should be exercised.

The continuing shortage of protective medical equipment like face masks has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to advise healthcare workers to “use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort”.

Homemade masks are not proven to be sufficient protection against the virus, however.

Epidemiologist Celine Gounder, who is also a clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at New York University, told Business Insider in an email, “While wearing a scarf or bandana might help prevent a sick person from transmitting coronavirus infection to others by trapping respiratory droplets, it is unsafe for healthcare workers to rely on scarves and bandanas to protect themselves against infection by their patients.”

The CDC also acknowledged in their guidelines that a homemade mask’s “capability to protect [healthcare professionals] is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option.”

The agency also advises healthcare workers to use a full face shield in addition to a homemade mask. 

A professional association and union, National Nurses United (NNU), also criticized the loosening of protective equipment standards.

NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo stated in a press release: “If nurses and health care workers aren’t protected, that means patients and the public are not protected.

This is a major public health crisis of unknown proportions. Now is not the time to be weakening our standards and protections, or cutting corners. Now is the time we should be stepping up our efforts.”

The dwindling supply of medical equipment has prompted health organizations to consider partnering with private companies and donors to hep meet the demand.

Earlier this week, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma tweeted that he would ship a million face masks, along with COVID-19 testing kits, to the US. 

Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk also announced that his company would help produce respirators. 

Gounder stated that a public/private collaboration is not only welcomed, but also crucial in meeting the need to protect healthcare workers during this critical time. 

Gounder remarked, “We are at war against the coronavirus. In prior wars, we asked families to donate their wedding rings, jewelry, and other items to the war effort.

We should be pleading with the public and corporations who are hoarding respirator masks to donate their N95 masks to those serving on the frontlines of this war.”


Source: Business Insider

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