CMS Issues Updated Protective Mask Guidance in Light of Novel Coronavirus

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued key protective mask guidance for health care workers following the recent CDC and FDA statements regarding the novel coronavirus 2019.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued key protective mask guidance for health care workers following the recent CDC and FDA statements regarding the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

The CMS has sent a memorandum to state survey agencies responsible for inspecting nursing homes and other health care facilities serving Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The statement explains the types of facemasks that health care workers may use in situations involving COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

The proactive steps are part of the White House Task Force’s efforts to ensure a maximum supply of facemasks and respirators are available to enable health care providers to safely treat patients without exposing themselves and others to COVID-19.

“CMS is working in lockstep with the CDC, FDA, and other Trump Administration partners to protect both patients and the dedicated healthcare workers who are battling the spread of [c]oronavirus,” said Seema Verma, administrator for CMS, in a press release. Today, we provided practical information to state inspectors and health care facilities on the range of facemasks that can be temporarily used. CMS has been rapidly adapting our guidance to strengthen our nation’s defense against coronavirus, and today’s action is no exception. We’re working to make sure the health care system has the equipment it needs to keep patients and health care workers safe.”

The memo aligns with CMS policy regarding recent changes in CDC and FDA facemask and respirator guidance surrounding COVID-19 and supply demands. In order to reduce the burden on health care facilities, the CMS memo states facemasks, which protect the wearer from splashes and sprays, are an acceptable temporary alternative to respirators that filter air for most medical services until the demand for respirators lessens.

CMS has also alerted state surveyors that there is temporarily no requirement to validate the date of a facility’s last annual test of the fit of N95 masks worn by workers in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities. Specifically, CMS is temporarily suspending surveyor validation of the test to minimize the discarded masks associated with such testing.

Additionally, the FDA has approved a CDC request for an emergency use authorization to allow health care workers to use certain industrial respirators during the COVID-19 outbreak in health care settings. In their statement, the FDA concluded that respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, but not currently meeting the FDA’s requirements may be effective in preventing health care workers from airborne exposure to serious or life-threatening disease, including COVID-19.

Reference

  • CMS Issues Key Protective Mask Guidance for Healthcare Workers [news release]. CMS website. Published March 10, 2020. https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/covid-19-response-news-alert-cms-issues-key-protective-mask-guidance-healthcare-workers. Accessed March 11, 2020.