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Feds Look to Expand Use of Reusable Respirators During Crisis

Aug. 4, 2020, 3:30 PM

A Pennsylvania-based health system is slated to study health-care providers’ concerns with using certain reusable respirators to treat Covid-19 patients under a planned contract with the Trump administration.

The respirator—known as an elastomeric half-mask respirator—has one-way valves that open when a person exhales and can be repeatedly disinfected and reused, which could help address shortages of personal protective equipment in hospitals across the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intends to award the contract to the Allegheny Health Network and will use the gathered information to develop best practices to “accompany the Strategic National Stockpile’s distribution” of those respirators, according to the General Services Administration website.

Elastomeric half-mask respirators could lead to contamination from the exhaled breath, the website says. However, some hospitals have addressed that by putting a surgical mask over the valve and having doctors wear face shields during procedures that generate higher concentrations of infectious respiratory aerosols.

Hospitals, nursing homes, and other health facilities are once again running short on personal protective equipment and are rationing and reusing masks and gowns, a practice that can endanger doctors, nurses, and patients.

The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization March 28 for elastomeric respirators in case of N95 respirator shortages during Covid-19.

Allegheny Health Network has completely transitioned to using elastomeric respirators, and is the only health system in the U.S. to do so, according to the GSA website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at sstein@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com

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