The EMS Department has been evaluating guidance from the CDC regarding the use of non-medical, non-industrial face coverings as an adjunct to social distancing techniques during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Department has found no credible evidence to suggest that such face coverings offer a degree of protection – from others, nor from the wearer – that approaches the protection afforded by the surgical masks that the Department makes available to its members. Therefore, such face coverings are not considered compliant with the Department’s Infectious Respiratory Illnesses SOG.
However, member-provided non-medical, non-industrial face coverings may be used as outerwear on top of a properly worn surgical mask, and in fact may help prolong the useful life of a surgical mask. Wearing such face coverings this way is acceptable as long as the following conditions are met:
The Department does not recommend using member-provided face coverings over N95 masks. N95 masks should be reserved for encounters where the accumulation of viral particles or other contaminants on the outer surface of the mask may become substantial. Our current guidance is to properly discard a mask that may have accumulated substantial contaminants. Therefore a member-provided face covering should be put away prior to, and not used during, such encounters.
If the Department’s inventory of respiratory protection items reaches dangerously low levels, the Department will revisit the instructions in this memorandum.