Harvard, Stanford physicians call for universal use of N95s in hospitals

Hospitals should take more aggressive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals amid the omicron driven surge, physicians from Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University and Stanford (Calif.) University wrote in an editorial piece published Jan. 24 in JAMA

While most hospitals have already implemented an array of prevention measures, such as universal mask-wearing, testing inpatients upon admission and vaccination mandates for staff, the highly transmissible omicron variant necessitates further measures, wrote Drs. Michael Klompas, of Harvard Medical School, and Stanford's Abraar Karan. 

Those extra measures include universal use of N95 respirators in hospitals. The more virus a person is exposed to, the higher the risk of transmission, the physicians said. 

"Surgical and procedural masks reduce viral exposure by an estimated 40 percent to 60 percent, depending on mask fit," the physicians said. "N95 respirators decrease exposures by 95 percent or greater, far exceeding the protection provided even with mutual mask wearing by patients and clinicians." 

They also urged hospitals to mandate booster doses for staff and to test patients more frequently rather than just upon admission. 

The CDC on Jan. 14 updated its consumer mask webpage to reflect the levels of protection different masks and respirators offer against COVID-19, clarifying that some masks and respirators, such as N95s, offer higher levels of protection than others.

 

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