Short on masks and gowns? The FDA can help you make the most out of what you have left


If you’re running thin on surgical masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) due to coronavirus-related shortages, you’re not alone.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have any extra masks to loan you, but they do have tips to help you cope.

The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health has published a letter on surgical mask and gown conservation strategies in the face of potential shortages as a result of the global pandemic of COVID-19.

The conservation strategies are aimed at health-care organizations and personnel, including veterinary hospitals and staff, and are intended to help them establish operating procedures during the pandemic.

(The FDA notes that their recommendations are intended to augment, not replace, specific controls and procedures developed by healthcare organizations, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or the CDC’s Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee to aid in infection prevention and control.)

The recommendations include conservation strategies for several scenarios:

  • Conventional capacity strategies—supply levels are adequate to provide patient care without any change in routine practice
  • Contingency capacity strategies—limited supply levels may change patient care, but may not have a significant impact on patient care and healthcare provider safety
  • Crisis or alternate strategies—may need to be considered if surgical mask or gown demand exceeds the supply

If no surgical masks and/or gowns are available, check out the CDC’s Considerations for Selecting Protective Clothing used in Healthcare for Protection against Microorganisms in Blood and Body Fluids.

The FDA is collaborating with manufacturers of surgical masks and gowns to better understand the current supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak, and to avoid any widespread shortages of these products.

The FDA says they’ll continue to keep healthcare providers, manufacturers, and the public informed if new or additional information becomes available.

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