The Covid-19 epidemic is widespread in the United States, but many hospitals in the country do not have enough N95 masks because of the tight global supply.
According to the New York Times, hospitals across the US are racing against time to prepare to deal with new strains of corona virus, but the supply of medical masks is in significant shortage.
Currently, the number of Covid-19 infections in the United States exceeds 500, with more than 100 people in Washington, New York and California states declared a state of emergency. Nationwide, there have been 696 cases of infection and 25 deaths.
“We have not yet fully prepared for the situation of exhausting N95 masks,” New York Times quoted Dr. Susan Ray at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta (Georgia, USA).
The director of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta (Georgia) said the current number of N95 masks is only enough for less than a month.
The global supply of masks is shrinking, production is not enough to meet the increasing demand due to the widespread spread of the coronavirus virus. The New York Times said some hospitals in the US couldn’t buy masks, they didn’t even know when the stock was available.
The N95 respirator is thicker and more tightly fitted than the normal medical mask. Medical masks only block large loose particles, while N95 can filter up to 95% of the airborne particles if used correctly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that only patients and health care workers use N95.
Protection of health workers is essential to disease control, to ensure safety for hospitals, emergency care centers and other facilities. Doctors and nurses after isolation from patients infected with coronavirus newly isolated for 2 weeks.
In China, many health workers infected with the corona virus, even died from a shortage of masks and other protective equipment.
The US federal government’s medical supplies depot has 12 million N95 masks and 30 million surgical masks, which is only about 1% of the 3.5 billion needed if the Covid-19 outbreak broke out. pandemic in this country, according to the US Department of Health.
The agency said the federal government needs to ensure there are 500 million N95 masks over the next 18 months. The shortage of masks in hospitals is not only due to the supply exhausted by the epidemic, but also comes from the stockpiling of purchases by consumers inside and outside the United States.
In contrast, hospitals do not store masks, so these facilities have no available supply.
Risks to health workers
According to Tony Morain of the Direct Relief Foundation in Santa Barbara (California), the organization bought 2 million masks in early January and sent hundreds of thousands of masks to Australia after the wildfire. When the new strain of corona virus broke out, the group sent most of the remaining masks to China.
“Currently, we receive quite a lot of requests from medical centers across the United States and our supply has about 500,000 N95 masks. In the coming days, we will start distributing them to high-risk areas, ”Mr. Morain said.
At Highland Hospital in Oakland (California), emergency doctors hope that after California Governor Gavin Newsom declares a state of emergency, they will be allowed access to all public supplies.
Grady Health vice president Lindsay Caulfield said the system had sufficient supplies of N95 masks within 35 days. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration asked the CDC to allow health workers to wear masks approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
The CDC also affirmed that the shortage would be more serious if the disease broke out. The N95 respirator may be used multiple times in contact with the patient instead of once.
According to the CDC, without a mask, older health workers, those with underlying medical conditions or who are pregnant should avoid contact with patients infected with Covid-19.
“We do not have an N95 respirator and must use surgical masks instead. We are considering refusing to see patients who are likely to be infected with Covid-19 unless appropriate protective gear is provided, ”said a physician at NYU Langone Medical Center (New York State, USA).
Dr. Marc Habert of Fishkill (New York state, USA) said he had to work without a N95 mask or other protective equipment. “We have nothing. Everything was preordered, ”he lamented.
“Now we guess there will be more patients. But we don’t have enough supply if we don’t know how to use it economically, ”Mr. Habert added.