World

Expected CDC guidance on N95 masks outrages health care workers

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Nurses, researchers and workplace safety officers worry new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might reduce protection against the coronavirus and other airborne pathogens in hospitals.


A CDC advisory committee has been updating its 2007 standards for infection control in hospitals this year. Many health care professionals and scientists expressed outrage after the group released a draft of its proposals in June.


The draft controversially concluded that N95 face masks are equivalent to looser, surgical face masks in certain settings — and that doctors and nurses need to wear only surgical masks when treating patients infected by “common, endemic” viruses, like those that cause the seasonal flu.


The committee was slated to vote on the changes at a public meeting on Aug. 22, but it postponed the vote until November. Once the advice is final, the CDC begins a process of turning the committee’s assessment into guidelines that hospitals throughout the United States typically follow. After the meeting, members of the public expressed concern about where the CDC was headed, especially as Covid cases rise. Nationwide, hospital admissions and deaths due to Covid have been increasing for several consecutive weeks.