On Infection Prevention & Control

Experiences, case studies and news about infection prevention and control.

PPE Considerations When Caring for Known or Suspected Patients with COVID-19


Robert Campbell, PharmD, director, clinical standards interpretation for hospital/ambulatory programs 

Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of The Joint Commission’s daily communication on issues relevant to organizations managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The full list of FAQs is available here. All examples are for illustrative purposes only.

Based on the World Health Organization (WHO)-China Joint Report on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) What Healthcare Personnel Should Know about Caring for Patients with Confirmed or Possible COVID-19 Infection reports, face masks are an acceptable alternative to respirators when caring for a person with known or suspected COVID-19, except when participating in aerosol generating procedures including:

  • endotracheal intubation
  • suctioning of the respiratory tract (if not using in-line suction catheters)
  • bronchoscopy

Defining Face Masks
Face masks, also known as surgical or procedural masks, are loose-fitting disposable devices that create a physical barrier between the mouth/nose of a wearer and the potential contaminants in the environment.

Defining Respirators
 A respirator is a personal protective device that is worn on the face. Respirators cover at least the nose and the mouth, and are used to reduce the wearer’s risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles (e.g. dust and infectious agent(s).  

Types of respirators include:

  • N95s
  • elastomeric filtering facepieces
  • powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs)

Additional Resources from The Joint Commission
Joint Commission Statement of Use of Face Masks Brought from Home

Additional Resources
U.S. Department of Labor Issues Temporary Enforcement Guidance for Respirator Fit-Testing in Healthcare during COVID-19 Outbreak

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Temporary Enforcement Guidance for Respirator Fit-Testing in Healthcare during COVID-19 Outbreak

Robert Campbell, PharmD, is director, Clinical Standards Interpretation Hospital/Ambulatory Programs and director, Medication Management. Prior to these roles, he served as the pharmacist for Clinical Standards Interpretation in the Division of Healthcare Improvement at The Joint Commission. Campbell also surveys as a field representative for The Joint Commission in the Hospital Accreditation and Critical Access Hospital Accreditation Programs and is a reviewer in the Medication Compounding Certification Program. Prior to joining The Joint Commission, Campbell worked in health care organizations and held leadership positions with oversight responsibilities for performance improvement, accreditation readiness, risk management, infection control, medical staff services, as well as inpatient and outpatient pharmacy services.