PPE COVID-19 Questions

FAQ for Caregivers

Here are questions about continual mask use and PPE and the answers from our Infection Prevention Leaders.

Why do I have to wear a mask and eye protection?

CAs the virus continues to spread in our community, it’s likely that more of our patients and visitors may be infectious, even though they aren’t showing symptoms. Patients may be contagious for a few days before symptoms begin, or they may not have common symptoms such as coughing, or even less common symptoms, such as GI distress or diarrhea. To ensure caregiver safety, we feel that it is safer for you to wear a mask and eye protection when interacting with every patient.

Why do I have to wear the same mask all day?

Intermountain currently has a sufficient supply of masks. However, we also realize there is a national shortage and that increased use of masks will lower our supply. To ensure we have enough masks over the next several weeks or months, wearing one mask all day can help us conserve our supply.

This feels uncomfortable and goes against everything I was taught about wearing masks.

We completely understand and agree. Wearing the same mask with multiple patients is something we have always discouraged. The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique circumstances. We need to make hard choices right now to protect our caregivers and patients to the best of our ability. This includes wearing a mask while taking care of every patient.

Will I be protected when following these recommendations?

To protect yourself, avoid touching your face mask or your face while on shift. If you see others touching or pulling down their masks, help them be safe by reminding them of why it is important not to do this. If you have a habit of continually pulling down your mask or readjusting it, then you should wear the full face shield rather than goggles. Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and regularly perform high-level disinfection of your work area. If possible, designate specific work stations for staff.

Would wearing an N95 respirator be safer?

No, because the virus is transmitted by droplet contact. With coughing, droplets containing the virus are sprayed into the air and up to 6 feet away but will drop to the floor or other surfaces rather quickly because of their size. A procedural mask is enough for droplet exposure. During aerosol-generating procedures (AGP), the size of the droplets is often reduced, causing them to hang in the air longer than normal. Therefore, N95 or PAPR respirators and airborne precautions are the recommended protection during AGP. This includes staying out of the AGP treatment area until 1 hour has passed.

What if someone coughs right in my face while I’m wearing my mask?

Your mask would now be considered “soiled,” and you would need to throw it away and get a new one.

What if I am working in another contact isolation room, for example, c diff? Should I keep reusing my mask?

No. Discard your mask if you have been in a contact isolation room.

Can I disinfect my procedural mask or my N95 respirator with a wipe?

No. This would not be safe. Intermountain is currently working on a process to sterilize N95 respirators.

How do we reduce the risk of spreading the virus when staff are often accidentally touching their masks with their hands?

Everyone needs to take extra care to wash their hands frequently and use gloves, as well as hand sanitizer, appropriately. Wearing a face shield will also help reduce the risk of touching the mask and direct contamination the mask. Remember that the virus is spread by droplets that do not hang suspended in the room.

What about all the other people in the hospital, such as OPE managers, finance, administration, EH, IPs. Do they need to wear their masks all day, or only when in patient care areas?

We are asking anyone who enters any patient-use or treatment area – even if it’s just for a short time – to wear the mask and face shield. When they are not in a patient-use or treatment area, staff can store their supplies as mentioned in the reuse and extended use handouts.

During my shift, when can I take off my mask?

You can remove your mask and face shield when you leave the unit for a break or when eating lunch. If eating in a room with others, please stay at least 6 feet apart. Follow the precautions for safely saving your mask and reusing your face shield.

Do I need to wear mask and eye protection to the cafeteria?

Yes. In order to keep everyone healthy, you need to be wearing the correct PPE whenever you may be within 6 feet of another person.

Do OR caregivers need to be wearing N95 or PAPR respirators for all surgical cases, due to intubating and extubating?

Directions for surgical staff will be provided by Surgical Services. See Airway Management Guidelines.

Do I need to clean my face shield between every patient?

No, you should clean the face shield when you remove it for a break, it becomes soiled, or you are finishing your shift.

Should I wear booties and a hair net as part of my PPE?

No. Booties and hair nets are not needed for COVID-19 Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) or COVID-19 positive patients.