To ease the continued strain on the N95 supply chain and Strategic National Stockpile, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is considering whether the federal government should buy and deploy elastomeric half-mask respirators in health care settings and emergency medical services organizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

EHMR face pieces use replaceable filters or cartridges and are made of materials that allow for repeated cleaning and reuse. NIOSH said EHMRs “provide at least the same level of protection as single-use N95” respirators, and all models must be evaluated and approved by NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Laboratory.

“Studies have suggested that elastomerics may protect the wearer better than N95s because they provide a superior seal against the face for many,” said Nancy Foster, AHA vice president of quality and patient safety. “The tradeoff may be that it is harder for colleagues to hear each other while wearing such respirators, and that may impose a different kind of risk.” 

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