Washington’s health care system is experiencing significant shortages of personal protective equipment at a time when the presence of COVID-19 is placing great demand on supplies. To successfully manage this situation for the good of all Washingtonians, including frontline health care providers and patients, the Washington State Department of Health says healthcare facilities and EMS in Washington must engage in consistent PPE usage strategies and reduce variation in practice. These strategies will be determined by the Department of Health in consultation with infectious disease experts.

Wasington’s DOH is calling on all healthcare facilities, long-term care facilities, and EMS to implement the following controls to the greatest extent possible and follow the Yellow PPE Conservation Strategies outlined below. If PPE supplies increase, the Department will update the document labeled Reuse of PPE linked here and communicate new usage strategies to facilities.

*Discard N95 respirators following use during aerosol generating procedures; Discard N95 respirators contaminated with blood, respiratory or nasal secretions, or other bodily fluids from patients; Discard N95 respirators following close contact with, or exit from, the care area of any patient co-infected with an infectious disease requiring contact precautions. Initial (baseline) fit testing to be done. Annual fit testing can be postponed during times of PPE shortage.

Definitions:

  • Extended use refers to the practice of wearing the same PPE for repeated close contact encounters with several patients, without removing the PPE between patient encounters.
  • Reuse refers to the practice of using the same PPE for multiple encounters with patients but removing it (‘doffing’) after each encounter. The respirator is stored in between encounters to be put on again (‘donned’) prior to the next encounter with a patient. N95 respirator reuse is often referred to as “limited reuse.”