Cloth masks don’t protect nurses

Ana no cloth

The Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion is so grateful for the offers of support for our nurses and other health care workers during the COVID-19 crisis, and we appre­ciate offers from our commu­nity to sew masks. Unfor­tu­nately, homemade masks will not meet criteria for the state stock­pile and procure­ment standards – and should not be used by health care providers in lieu of approved PPE.

In the face of extreme short­ages in Personal Protec­tive Equip­ment (PPE) for health­care workers on the front lines, one stopgap measure that has been suggested is to use homemade cloth masks with or in lieu of PPE. 

The American Nurses Associ­a­tion and WSNA do not endorse the use of homemade cloth masks in health care settings. ANA released the following state­ment on March 24:

ANA’s Position on the Use of Cloth Masks #

Evidence does not support the notion that cloth masks are safe for health care profes­sionals providing care to patients with coron­avirus. ANA continues to press for appro­priate PPE including N95 respi­ra­tors and if those are not avail­able, medical/​surgical masks. Nurses should not be wearing cloth masks – they do not afford the wearer any signif­i­cant protection.

In addition, homemade masks do not meet criteria for the state stock­pile and procure­ment standards. According to CDC Crisis Capacity guide­lines (3/17/2020), HCP use of homemade masks should only be consid­ered in settings where facemasks are not avail­able. Homemade masks are not consid­ered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown.

WSNA is grateful to the public for their continued support of nurses, especially during these uncer­tain times. We continue to work with state leaders and health officials to ensure an adequate supply of appro­priate PPE, including face masks and N95 respi­ra­tors. If businesses or members of the public have supplies to donate, please donate them to health­care providers at www​.supplies​save​liveswa​.org.