Respiratory Protection Considerations for Healthcare Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Christopher R. Friese, Tener Goodwin Veenema, James S. Johnson, Sundaresan Jayaraman, James C. Chang, Linda Hawes Clever

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a surge of patients that exceeds available human and physical resources in many settings, triggering the implementation of crisis standards of care. High-quality respiratory protection is essential to reduce exposure among healthcare workers, yet dire shortages of personal protective equipment in the United States threaten the health and safety of this essential workforce. In the context of rapidly changing conditions and incomplete data, this article outlines 3 important strategies to improve healthcare workers' respiratory protection. At a minimum, healthcare workers delivering care to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should wear N95 respirators and full-face shields. Several mechanisms exist to boost and protect the supply of N95 respirators, including rigorous decontamination protocols, invoking the Defense Production Act, expanded use of reusable elastomeric respirators, and repurposing industrial N95 respirators. Finally, homemade facial coverings do not protect healthcare workers and should be avoided. These strategies, coupled with longer-term strategies of investments in protective equipment research, infrastructure, and data systems, provide a framework to protect healthcare workers immediately and enhance preparedness efforts for future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-240
Number of pages4
JournalHealth Security
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Healthcare workers
  • Personal protective equipment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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