Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators
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Conservation strategies: This resource contains recommendations facilitating conservation of equipment and supplies during contingency (expected shortages) and crisis (known shortages) capacities and should not be applied as guidance when conventional capacities are available.
Audience: These considerations are intended for use by federal, state, and local public health officials, respiratory protection program managers, leaders in occupational health services and infection prevention and control programs, and other leaders in healthcare settings who are responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures for preventing pathogen transmission in healthcare settings.
Purpose: This document offers a series of strategies or options to optimize supplies of disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators (commonly called “N95 respirators”) in healthcare settings when there is limited supply. It does not address other aspects of pandemic planning; for those, healthcare facilities can refer to COVID-19 preparedness plans. The strategies are also listed in order of priority and preference in the Summary for Healthcare Facilities: Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators during the COVID-19 Response in an easy-to-use format for healthcare facilities.
Surge capacity refers to the ability to manage a sudden increase in patient volume that would severely challenge or exceed the present capacity of a facility. While there are no commonly accepted measurements or triggers to distinguish surge capacity from daily patient care capacity, surge capacity is a useful framework to approach a decreased supply of N95 respirators during the COVID-19 response. To help healthcare facilities plan and optimize the use of respiratory protection in response to COVID-19, CDC has developed a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Burn Rate Calculator. Three general strata have been used to describe surge capacity and can be used to prioritize measures to conserve N95 respirator supplies along the continuum of care.1
- Conventional capacity: measures consisting of engineering, administrative, and PPE controls should already be implemented in general infection prevention and control plans in healthcare settings.
- Contingency capacity: measures that may be used temporarily during periods of expected N95 respirator shortages. Contingency capacity strategies should only be implemented after considering and implementing conventional capacity strategies. While current supply may meet the facility’s current or anticipated utilization rate, there may be uncertainty if future supply will be adequate and therefore, contingency capacity strategies may be needed.
- Crisis capacity: strategies that are not commensurate with U.S. standards of care but may need to be considered during periods of known N95 respirator shortages. Crisis capacity strategies should only be implemented after considering and implementing conventional and contingency capacity strategies. Facilities can consider crisis capacity when the supply is not able to meet the facility’s current or anticipated utilization rate.