Lopsided PPE Priorities

Until a month ago, the CDC considered surgical masks sufficient protection for frontline health workers caring for patients outside of COVID-19 ICUs.

By the time it updated guidelines, most of the 3,500 U.S. health care worker deaths from COVID-19 had already occurred. 
 
Throughout the pandemic, ICU staff performing so-called “aerosol-generating” procedures on confirmed cases were prioritized for the best PPE. But a growing body of research shows this was a dangerously lopsided approach.  
 
A basic cough produces about 20X more aerosol particles than intubation, one study found. Yet CDC guidelines still say a worker would not be considered “exposed” after caring for a sick COVID-19 patient while wearing a surgical mask. 

KHN

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