Decontamination & Reuse of N-95 MasksApril 26, 2020
Rapidly responding to the shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) due to the pervasive coronavirus pandemic and with less than the usual regulatory oversight processes, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued crisis guidance on emergency use, reuse and the decontamination of N95 masks as well as use of unapproved types of filtering respirators. However, there is only very limited evidence-based data and no fully developed standards supporting the safety and effectiveness of decontamination methods against COVID-19 pathogens on an N95 respirator mask. The CDC is providing crisis guidance regarding worker safety and infection control in situations of extreme shortage, but it does not ensure a safe working environment.
Accordingly, it is the union’s position that acute care hospitals and other health care employers should not adopt the CDC crisis guidance allowing for the decontamination and/or reuse of N95 masks and other PPE unless they are in a situation of extreme shortage. Our Employers must also transparently and regularly share information regarding projected need, current PPE inventory levels, utilization rates, and projected resupply rates with the union and the workforce.
We oppose any occupational health practices that rely on the decontamination and reuse of N95 respirator masks or other PPE as standard practice. Crisis standards should only be implemented if absolutely necessary. It is the union’s position that:
We also oppose any use of KN95 facepiece respirators or other alternatives unless they can be properly fit tested to each individual worker and that they provide an air-tight seal or if they are used as an alternative to a surgical mask.
The union does not support decontamination and reuse strategies under any circumstances for nursing homes, retirement homes, and home and community care settings due to their lack of stringent administrative controls and the nature of their work.