July 23, 2020

Quick-Reference Resource from CDC Describes Strategies for PPE Shortages

A new quick reference table published last week by CDC is intended to help healthcare facilities optimize their supply of personal protective equipment during shortages. The table describes strategies that facilities can use when PPE supplies such as N95 respirators, facemasks, gowns, eye protection, and gloves are stressed, running low, or absent. The strategies apply to different levels of surge capacity, or healthcare facilities’ ability to manage a sudden increase in patient volume. The three levels are conventional capacity, contingency capacity, and crisis capacity. Conventional capacity strategies are those that should already be in place as part of general infection prevention and control plans in healthcare settings. A contingency capacity scenario describes a period of anticipated PPE shortages. And healthcare facilities operating at crisis capacity do not have enough supplies to meet their current or anticipated PPE utilization rate.

CDC urges healthcare facilities to consider each option in the table and implement them sequentially: conventional capacity, contingency capacity, then crisis capacity strategies. Facilities should also be sure to understand their current PPE inventory, supply chain, and utilization rate. (The NIOSH PPE Tracker app helps track personal protective equipment inventory. The app is based on the agency’s PPE Burn Rate Calculator spreadsheet. Both tools help facilities calculate their average PPE consumption rate.) And as PPE availability returns to normal, CDC states that healthcare facilities must “promptly resume standard practices.”

According to CDC, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for healthcare facilities to access needed PPE. Facilities experiencing PPE shortages must identify alternate ways to provide care to patients. More information from CDC about optimizing the supply of PPE and other equipment during the pandemic is available from the agency’s website.