My Thoughts on PPE for COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Coronavirus Cases: 859,338
Deaths: 42,334
Recovered: 178,125

Social media has been spreading positive awareness, but also misinformation about the novel coronavirus. The general public has now become aware of the shortage of PPE for healthcare workers in the United States.

There have been some posts from healthcare providers, including OTs that are sending some very dangerous messages.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, including mine.

I can understand the frustration of therapists that are facing an ethical dilemma. They are now getting therapy orders to treat COVID-19 patients and told by their superiors to do one of the following:

  • Go in without PPE
  • Go in with minimal PPE
  • Or go in with full PPE.

The issue we are now facing is the shortage of PPE. So many therapists and healthcare providers are on their normal errands and seeing the general public wearing PPE, some of which may be N95’s.

What about the immune compromized that needs to go on their errands? they are facing the fear of getting infected, but may have no choice but to go out.

The message being sent by some on social media is that the public should not be wearing such PPE on their normal errands to coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. and that essentially these supplies are “reserved” for healthcare providers.

This is sending the wrong message and dividing healthcare providers from the public.

We need to see the bigger picture.

The data and research from Asian countries show that wearing masks help to prevent spread of similar diseases such as SARS and MERS.

There is a clear cultural difference between Western and Asian countries. In Hong Kong, China, and South Korea, it has become quite the norm to be wearing a mask. Where I live in California, people are in close quarters without any masks.

Experts from other countries believe that wearing masks helps to prevent the spread of these diseases. As a healthcare provider myself, should I not be wearing an N95 mask (that I purchased myself) in public? Much is still unknown about the transmittal properties of COVID-19, so why wouldn’t I take maximum precautions if I already have the equipment?

Why should the public not be protecting themselves? In terms of priorit, sure doctors, RNs, Respiratory therapists, therapists need their N95s, etc. Interestingly, in Asia, you would be the odd one out for NOT wearing a mask.

Instead of sending the wrong message about how the public should not be wearing certain or any PPE at all, there is a bigger issue here.

  • Healthcare in the US runs on a thin margin.
  • Healthcare is largely private.
  • Many medical supplies provided to Americans are manufactured overseas, thus creating a potential issue in logistics of the supply chain, should there be a pandemic.
  • In general, there are not enough ventilators to meet a surge of COVID-19 patients with ARDS.
  • There is lack of training in how to don and doff PPE (but this is improving).
  • There is lack of testing (which results in underreporting of cases) and training for proper testing
  • There is lack of funding for research and education for public health about diseases such as coronavirus.

So let’s take action.

  • Firefighters wouldn’t go into a scene without protective gear.
  • Police wouldn’t respond to a scene without protection and precautions.
  • Why should healthcare workers be exposed to a virus without protection?

The South Korean model has been largely successful in minimizing exposure and deaths from COVID-19. The public has masks. They can get testing. They are staying home. There is less of a shortage of PPE.

We need to come together and mobilize for this threat.

Companies should see PPE and ventilators as an opportunity for competition and profit (South Korean model). Politicians from all levels need to see the potential devastation of this pandemic.

I fear that we are currently not even at the peak of the outbreak as cases are growing every day.