This JAMA Health Forum outlines the need to protect health care workers against COVID-19 and outlines advice for future pandemic response.
On March 5, the union National Nurses United (NNU) reported that in a national survey of more than 6500 nurses, only 30% said that their health care organization had sufficient inventory of PPE for responding to a surge event and 44% of the nurses said their employer had provided them with the necessary information about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and how to respond.
Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has standards for PPE and the CDC calls for hospitals to have respiratory protection programs, these standards are seldom enforced unless a state integrates them into health care facility inspections.
For future pandemics, the authors suggest that federal, state, and local governments must reinvest in a robust public health system and rely on that system for accurate and timely information and guidance to the health care sector and to society should be evidence-based, consistent, and aligned with local decision-making. The federal government should ensure that the nation’s health care sector has an adequate supply of PPE, including more reusable respirators, develop onshore capacity for rapid PPE production during surges, and incentivize public-private partnerships to develop novel PPE that is cost-effective, safe, and comfortable.