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Dr. Osterholm Blasts Using ‘Science’ as Cover for Not Using N95 Masks Because Supplies Are Short

March 22 (EIRNS)—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have made various changes in its recommendations for levels of personal protection equipment (PPE) which healthcare providers should use, explicitly “based on local and regional situational analysis of PPE supplies ... when the supply chain ... cannot meet the demand.” Current supply shortages are one thing—which requires a full-scale economic shift to remedy—but Dr. Michael Osterholm, PhD MPH, from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) warns that it is another thing, and a mistake, for other medical experts and hospital officials to assert that the higher protection levels are not needed.

He took as an example the argument of Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security’s Dr. Amesh Adalja that higher-quality N95 respirator masks are not needed for routine care of COVID-19 patients, and surgical masks are sufficient to protect against droplet infections.

CIDRAP News cites Osterholm that March 20, “it should be the other way around—until we have evidence that N95s are unnecessary, healthcare workers should use them.” He referenced the March 16 op-ed in CIDRAP News by Dr. Lisa Brosseau, a national expert on respiratory protection and infectious diseases, and retired professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Brousseau writes, “The precautionary principle suggests we should approach this organism as we would any novel highly transmissible respiratory disease—as a contact, droplet and airborne disease, but with one important caveat: Short-range aerosol transmission is also a strong possibility” and therefore N95s should be the standard. [emphasis in original].

“In my discussions with healthcare workers on the frontlines of patient care, it’s clear that they understand there is a real shortage of N95 respirators,” Dr. Osterholm said. “In that regard, they, despite their very real and appropriate anxiety, will provide the best patient care they can, even when it may place them at increased risk of an occupationally acquired COVID-19 infection. What they resent is being told by their employer that the CDC update last week to the COVID-19 respiratory protection recommendation is a science-based change, when it’s all about [N95] respirator availability.”

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