In an update to their recent joint statement, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF), American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA) and American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) released new recommendations for the best use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by anesthesia providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new recommendation is for anesthesia providers to wear N95 masks or similarly protective equipment, such as powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), in all diagnostic therapeutic and surgical procedures. This is a change from the earlier recommendation to only wear such PPE when a patient is suspected of or diagnosed with COVID-19.
The new recommendations reaffirmed the societies’ position that clinical anesthesia providers should be a priority when new PPE is available.
In a press release about the joint statement, the ASA acknowledged the struggles presented by the ongoing nationwide shortage of PPE, even with the recent announcement from Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, the U.S. surgeon general and a vice admiral the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, that 2 million masks from emergency reserves would be sent by the federal government to areas with the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases.
The statement also focuses on the growing evidence that incubation between time of exposure to the virus and the development of symptoms is five days or longer, and that people who are COVID-19-positive can be either asymptomatic or have minimal symptoms.
According to the statement, optimal recommended practice is for all anesthesia professionals to use PPE appropriately for aerosol-generating procedures when working near any patient’s airway. This recommendation was made in part because testing for COVID-19 has not been universally or promptly available, and identifying patients who are positive for COVID-19 is not currently possible with certainty in the clinical setting, according to the statement.