CMS Issues Guidance on Respirator Use Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Regulation | March 11, 2020 | by Jodi Eyigor

CMS issued updated guidance for healthcare workers on the use of industrial respirators amid supply shortages due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

UPDATE: CMS released updated guidance for the optimization of PPE on March 17. This guidance can be found here.

CMS released updated guidance on March 10 regarding the use of respirators and facemasks by health care personnel. This guidance is a result of recent policies by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in light of supply shortages resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Effectively immediately, CMS has expanded the list of acceptable respirators that can be used by healthcare providers to include a number of industrial respirators. The complete list can be found here. CMS also recommends providers refer to CDC’s guidelines for optimizing current supplies of respirators but notes that facemasks are acceptable if respirators are unavailable. CMS has directed surveyors to forgo validation of the fit test until further notice to further optimize limited supplies.

Additionally, CMS recommends the following strategies regarding shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE):

  • Respirators: prioritize respirator use for procedures that are likely to generate respiratory aerosols.
  • Gowns: prioritize gowns for procedures that are likely to generate respiratory aerosols, care activities where splashes or sprays are anticipated, and high-contact care activities that include opportunities for transfer of pathogens to hands and clothing.
  • Airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIR): prioritize AIIRs for patients undergoing procedures that are likely to generate respiratory aerosols. Residents or patients with known or suspected COVID-19 not undergoing aerosol-generating procedures should be cared for in a single-occupancy room with the door closed.

CMS encourages the implementation of a respiratory protection program for any facilities caring for individuals infected with pathogens.

LeadingAge will be monitoring these issues closely. We encourage you to provide us feedback on whether the expansion of acceptable respirators and suspension of fit test validation has improved your community's ability to respond to COVID-19.