The FDA recently told healthcare facilities they can start to limit the decontamination and reuse of disposable masks.
An increase in the domestic supply of new masks approved by NIOSH has made the practice less necessary, the agency said.
The FDA recommends that health care personnel and facilities:
- Only use decontaminated disposable masks when supplies of new ones are low.
- Transition away from a crisis capacity strategy for masks, such as decontamination of N95 and other filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs).
- Increase inventory of NIOSH-approved respirators, including N95s and other FFRs, elastomeric respirators, including new elastomeric respirators without an exhalation valve that can be used in the operating room, and powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs). Three companies — 3M, MSA Safety and Dentec Safety Specialists — recently gained NIOSH approval for elastomeric respirators they redesigned by either removing the exhalation valve or fitting it with a new filter and valve to trap the virus inside. HHS plans to buy some of the redesigned masks. Sandia National Laboratories has come up with its own version of a reusable respirator for frontline workers and is seeking NIOSH approval and potential manufacturing partners.
- If preferred models are unavailable, the FDA recommends that obtaining and using a new respirator before decontaminating a preferred disposable mask.
- If a reusable respirator is needed, organizations should first try to acquire respirators like elastomeric respirators and PAPRs, which are designed to be reusable.
The agency said it will continue to monitor supply and demand of masks for healthcare use.