How has the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacted the demand for highly efficient PPE?

The society is presently suffering what is perceived as one of the most dangerous enemies to human life, the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. In fact, in March 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Despite the evident need for a consistent and vast supply of personal protective equipment in recent times, there is a significant lack of these safety gear for front line workers, especially gloves, gowns, face shields, respirators, and hand sanitizer. Italy, which is facing the brunt of the pandemic, is witnessing a critical shortage of PPE, with medical workers experiencing high infection and mortality rates partly owing to this shortage. Likewise, the amount of protective gear available in the US is significantly lower than the potential future requirement.

In order to address these issues, regulatory authorities like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) are publishing guidelines, recommendations, and mandates for infection control practices across various settings and circumstances.

For instance, the CDC has recently released a series of options and strategies to optimize the supply and usage of N95 respirators in healthcare settings with limited supplies. The strategies are listed in order of preference and priority in a document, constructed in an easy-to-use format, which offers a checklist for healthcare facilities to help them use their N95 mask supply optimally.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Public Health has published a document to update and guide the public regarding coronavirus transmission and the appropriate application of PPE, considering the shortage of the gear in the region.

The WHO is also making considerable efforts to urge the appropriate and rational usage of personal protective equipment in healthcare settings, as well as effective supply chain management.

The WHO, in conjunction with industries, governments as well as the Pandemic Supply Chain Network, is working to boost PPE production and allocate adequate resources to at-risk and critically affected nations.

Business owners rally to provide PPE solutions amid rising COVID-19 relief efforts

In light of the global COVID-19 crisis, it is not just regulatory bodies, but also major industry players, business owners, and community members who have taken up the mantle of bridging the gap between PPE demand and supply.

For example, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has pledged to support California’s coronavirus response and relief efforts, by providing a 747 aircraft from the Virgin Atlantic fleet to transport PPE from China to Oakland International Airport. This contribution is anticipated to support the state’s target of procuring 500 million N95 masks, 1 billion medical gloves and 200 million face shields fore COVID-19 relief in the Bay Area.

Several other prominent business players have also dedicated themselves to this cause, including Apple CEO, Tim Cook, who is working with state and federal authorities to make a donation of nearly 9 million face masks for frontline medical workers, as well as SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has delivered 1000 ventilators to aid the treatment of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles.

In addition to industry giants, ordinary business owners are also rallying to support COVID-19 relief efforts in their localities. In Texas, for instance, regular businesses are turning their focus towards the production and supply of personal protective equipment for frontline workers.

To illustrate, a Mount Pleasant chocolate factory, Sweet Shop, is working on developing innovative face shields using their plastic box coverings. Likewise, in the El Campo region, near Houston, professional quilter Joyce Cox and a host of amateur seamstresses are working on sewing protective covers to increase the life of N95 respirators. Austin’s Elite Patient Care received 350 masks via community efforts.

There is much to learn yet about the newly emerged novel coronavirus, which spells a potentially long road to recovery for the global economy. However, with proactive measures like social distancing and hygiene maintenance, supported by government incentives for augmented PPE production and easier export and distribution of safety gear, as well as guidance from global authorities like WHO, it could be possible for the world to emerge victorious from these dire circumstances, in due time.