Masks Shortage & Coronavirus
The Coronavirus, aka COVID – 19 or SARS Coronavirus 2, is not a China problem. The Coronavirus is a World Wide Problem even though China’s crisis is an epidemic, it’s not a pandemic at this time, but the problem is expected to become worst before it becomes better. Due to fear from the unknown and myths spreading throughout the internet, critical shortages of masks are taking place. So preparedness and critical thinking are needed.
I have always recommended a level 3 general-purpose surgical mask be the standard mask in a dental office due to biohazard aerosols. Please keep in mind that a general-purpose surgical mask does not offer the same protection against the Coronavirus as would an N95, but it is not necessary to make the N95 mask the standard at this time. I do recommend keeping a supply of the N95 mask on hand if you can still obtain them.
As the mask shortage takes hold, something is better than nothing, provided we think it through and make sound decisions. Here is what I suggest in the development of the mask shortage.
Reserve your supply of level 3 masks for procedures that generate biohazard aerosols. Use levels 1 and 2 for other tasks were a mask must be worn, but direct biohazard aerosols are not present. FYI, level 1 and 2 masks are more available than level 3, for now away.
Have all employees read the manufacture’s instructions on the proper use and limitation of the mask. This will help get the maximum benefit from the mask. Please do not take this step lightly!
Note: how a mask fits is just as important as the level of the mask. Also, since there is no way of knowing without testing what the exact contaminants the mask is exposed to, length of exposure, or the saturation level from the exposure, the person wearing the mask must keep these concerns in mind at all times. A mask is not a foolproof protection device with a guarantee for safety.
Sometime to keep in mind, as you breathe through a mask, the contaminants enter the mask and begin the mask degeneration and saturation process. The saturation makes the mask a platform for cross-contamination, not to mention you are wearing an item that is loaded with contaminants on your face!
Masks should be disposed of before leaving the source area. Pulling a mask underneath your chin, taking the mask off, and placing it in a pocket or on a counter must at all times be avoided. Hands must be thoroughly washed with soap and water after removing a mask.
Avoid purchasing masks from vendors or online retailers that you are not familiar with, counterfeit masks are hitting the market, beware. Get a referral source from your dental supply representative.
Avoid being around sick people. Reschedule patients that have a fever. Employees that have a fever should stay home as well.
Wash hands with soap and water frequently, more than you usually do. When water and soap are not available, use an alcohol-based healthcare grade sanitizer. Avoid making contact with your face (nose, mouth, and eyes)before you wash your hands.
Keep treatment room counters free of excess items, have only the essential out. Take the necessary time to properly disinfect surfaces. Read the instructions before using surface disinfectants. Unfortunately, surface disinfectants are grossly misused in dentistry.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment is not an option. Know what you need, how to use it, and it’s limitations. Read the manufacturers’ instructions before using for maximum benefits.