FDA Says N95 Masks Should No Longer Be Reused

By Bill Galluccio

April 23, 2021

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has told hospitals to they no longer need to reuse N95 medical masks. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the FDA issued an emergency exception to allow nurses and healthcare workers to use the same N95 mask while treating multiple patients due to a shortage of personal protective equipment.

Normally, healthcare workers would swap out the masks between each patient to reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases.

Now that supplies have returned to normal, the FDA advised hospitals it is no longer necessary to ration N95 masks.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending health care personnel and facilities transition away from crisis capacity conservation strategies,” the agency said in a letter to healthcare facilities.

The letter is only a recommendation and not an official order, so hospitals are still free to sterilize and reuse the N95 masks. The FDA said it will issue new guidance in the coming weeks and that hospitals will eventually be required to swap out the masks after each use.

“The ability to decontaminate was purely a last resort, an extreme measure,” Suzanne Schwartz, director of the FDA’s office of strategic partnerships and technology innovation, said. “From the FDA’s perspective, there is a need for us to move back towards contingency and conventional strategies, which is, you use the respirator for the interaction, and then you dispose of it and get a new one. We are in unison, in sync, with both NIOSH and OSHA in that position.”

Photo: Getty Images

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