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UPDATE: Delaware hospitals reusing face masks 'out of abundance of caution'

Shannon McNaught * Delaware
shannon.marvel@doverpost.com
Dover Post

At least three Delaware healthcare systems have implemented new face mask policies in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bayhealth is the largest healthcare group in Kent and Sussex counties, with hospitals in Dover and Milford. On or before Friday, March 27, Bayhealth issued an “expanded guidance for the use of face masks” memo to staff who are in or enter a department that provides patient care.

“Delaware has seen a significant increase on COVID-19 cases, with evidence of community spread. Out of an abundance of caution, Bayhealth is changing face mask personal protective equipment strategies for staff that enter a department that provides patient care,” the memo states.

Staff will now be provided a mask and brown paper bag at the beginning of Friday shifts or the next scheduled shift. They are expected to use that mask for seven days unless it becomes wet, soiled or exposed to a known COVID-19 positive patient.Masks are to be stored in the brown paper bag at the end of shifts.

At Beebe Healthcare's hospital in Lewes, employees are using face masks for up to five days.

“During the current COVID-19 emergency, Beebe Healthcare, in alignment with other healthcare systems and the CDC’s Facemask Contingency guidance, is allowing team members the option to use face masks during routine patient care for those patients without suspected COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. These masks may be used up to five days with appropriate storage and hand hygiene,” said Beebe Infectious Disease Dr. Bill Chasanov. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers strategies for optimizing the supply of face masks on three levels: conventional, contingency and crisis capacities. 

Reusing face masks is a crisis-capacity strategy and is "not commensurate with U.S. standards of care." 

ChristianaCare would not reveal the number of days they are using masks, but a representative said, "We are reusing some kinds of masks in accordance with CDC guidelines for re-use and extended use."

Nanticoke Health Services didn't provide a number of days either. Their representative said, "It varies by masking option. As are all hospitals across the nation, we are working to best protect our team while conserving PPE for what may be to come."

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