New Guidelines on Use and Reuse of PPE for COVID-19

Richard Mark Kirkner

April 30, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Infectious Disease Society of America has released new guidelines on the use and reuse of personal protective equipment, most of which address the use of face protection, for healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients. In releasing the guidelines, the IDSA expert guideline panel acknowledged gaps in evidence to support the recommendations, which is why they will be updated regularly as new evidence emerges.

"Our real goal here is to update these guidelines as a live document," panel chair John Lynch III, MD, MPH, of the University of Washington, Seattle, said in a press briefing. "Looking at whatever research is coming out where it gets to the point where we find that the evidence is strong enough to make a change, I think we'll need to readdress these recommendations."

The panel tailored recommendations to the availability of supplies: conventional capacity for usual supplies; contingency capacity, when supplies are conserved, adapted and substituted with occasional reuse of select supplies; and crisis capacity, when critical supplies are lacking.

The guidelines contain the following eight recommendations for encounters with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients:

  1. Either a surgical mask or N95 (or N99 or PAPR [powered & supplied air respiratory protection]) respirator for routine patient care in a conventional setting.

  2. Either a surgical mask or reprocessed respirator as opposed to no mask for routine care in a contingency or crisis setting.

  3. No recommendation on the use of double gloves vs. single gloves.

  4. No recommendation on the use of shoe covers for any setting.

  5. An N95 (or N99 or PAPR) respirator for aerosol-generating procedures in a conventional setting.

  6. A reprocessed N95 respirator as opposed to a surgical mask for aerosol-generating procedures in a contingency or crisis setting.

  7. Adding a face shield or surgical mask as a cover for an N95 respirator to allow for extended use during respirator shortages when performing aerosol-generating procedures in a contingency or crisis setting. This recommendation carries a caveat: It assumes correct doffing sequence and hand hygiene before and after taking off the face shield or surgical mask cover.

  8. In the same scenario, adding a face shield or surgical mask over the N95 respirator so it can be reused, again assuming the correct sequence for hand hygiene.

The guideline was developed using the GRADE approach — for Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation — and a modified methodology for developing rapid recommendations. The levels of evidence supporting each recommendation vary from moderate for the first two to knowledge gap for the third and fourth to very low certainty for the last four.

"You can see that the eight recommendations that were made, a large part of them are really focused on masks, but there are a huge number of other disparate questions that need to be answered where there is really no good evidence basis," Dr. Lynch said. "If we see any new evidence around that, we can at least provide commentary but I would really hope evidence-based recommendations around some of those interventions."

Panel member Allison McGeer, MD, FRCPC, of the University of Toronto, explained the lack of evidence supporting infection prevention in hospitals. "In medicine we tend to look at individual patterns and individual patient outcomes," she said. "When you're looking at infection prevention, you're looking at health systems and their outcomes, and it's much harder to randomize hospitals or a state or a country to one particular policy about how to protect patients from infections in hospitals."

The latest guidelines follow IDSA's previously released guidelines on treatment and management of COVID-19 patients. The panel also plans to release guidelines on use of diagnostics for COVID-19 care.

Dr. Lynch has no financial relationships to disclose. Dr. McGeer disclosed relationships with Pfizer, Merck, Sanofi Pasteur, Seqirus, GlaxoSmithKline and Cidara.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.

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