After WHO recommendation for N95s in care settings with poor ventilation, Fraser Health bans them in hospitals

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      On December 22 of last year, the World Health Organization issued updated guidance for health workers.

      It called for health workers to wear either a respirator or a medical mask, in addition to other personal protective equipment, when entering a room where a patient has suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

      Moreover, the WHO said that respirators, including N95s, "should especially be worn in care settings where ventilation is known to be poor".

      In response to the WHO's announcement, University of Colorado Boulder atmospheric-chemistry expert Jose-Luis Jimenez tweeted that he would assume ventilation is poor in all indoor locations. The only exceptions would be if a carbon-dioxide monitor measurement has determined that the concentration is below 700 parts per million.

      This week, however, the Burnaby Beacon reported that visitors to hospitals in Fraser Health are prohibited from wearing N95 respirators.

      “We understand that people have heard that N95 is safer and there is no evidence to support that," a leaked memo from Peace Arch Hospital states. "N95 masks require fit testing and we also have no idea were [sic] the visitor has acquired their mask and whether it meets safety standards or fits them as expected. Our medical masks, when worn appropriately, provide protection from COVID."

      This news came shortly before the Biden administration announced plans to give away 400 million N95 respirators, starting next week, to help stem the spread of the Omicron variant.

      Meanwhile, the Conversation recently published a commentary by four health experts noting that N95s are often incorrectly described as "masks", rather than respirators, because of how they look.

      "The safest situation, especially for prolonged contact in crowded settings, is when everyone is wearing well-fitting N95 respirators," the health experts wrote. "It’s hard to show evidence to support respirator use in the community—but lack of randomised controlled trials (RCT) does not mean they are not effective."