COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Resources

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There is an international shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) used to protect caregivers from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

However, caregivers are now included in “Tier 1″—the same level as other healthcare workers like nurses and doctors—in the priority lists for access to PPE. This means:

  • All Individual Providers, regardless of whether or not their client has COVID-19 symptoms, will automatically receive 4 cloth face coverings by mail, in May. They will be sent to the address you have on file in IPOne. Learn more about cloth face coverings, and how and when to use them. 
  • Individual Providers who have clients with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 will receive additional PPE – an N95 respirator, face shield and gowns. This will come separately from the cloth masks, and needs to be requested through the Area Agency on Aging, or Developmental Disabilities Administration contact.
  • Agency Providers who have clients with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 will also receive additional PPE. You will need to request PPE from your supervisor.
  • For additional supplies like surgical masks, you will continue to be in Tier 1 and will get access to them when they’re available.

See more details in the letter from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

In the meantime, additional resources for gloves and guidance for creating homemade masks and face coverings is included below. Some important things to remember:

  • If you are caring for a client with COVID-19, you need PPE—not an alternative—to provide proven protection against exposure.
  • Homemade face coverings are meant to be worn in the community only, and not for work. 
  • Homemade masks can be worn for work in the absence of PPE to reduce transmission, but they are not known to be effective and have not been well studied.
  • To protect yourself from exposure when you wear a homemade mask, you should also wear a face shield (homemade or otherwise).

Homemade Face Coverings

Homemade face coverings can be worn while going out into your community (to the store, etc.). They are meant to reduce the risk that the person wearing the mask unknowingly spreads COVID-19. Get instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for how to make homemade cloth face coverings.

Homemade Masks and Face Shields

Watch this video for instructions on how to make (and improve) a homemade mask and face shield when official PPE is not available. Surgical masks or N-95 respirators need to be worn when available; there is no way to ensure your protection when using homemade options, but these methods may increase your safety while caregiving.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

In addition to masks and face shields, cleaning and disinfecting play an important role in keeping safe. Knowing what to use when bleach or other cleaners are unavailable is also important. Get guidance on cleaning and disinfecting: what to clean, what products or homemade solutions to use and more.

Free Gloves for Some IPs

Free gloves for caregivers are available to some Individual Providers (IPs) through their clients’ health benefit. Please visit the webpage for instructions.

Watch the COVID-19 Update

For information on PPE, alternatives to PPE and more on COVID-19, watch the YouTube video from April 2.

What You Can Do

There are some actions you can take to protect you and your client while the PPE shortage continues:

  • Deliver care remotely when you can, for example:
    • By phone/video technology: 
      • Reminders for treatment, medication and appointments.
      • Wellness checks and reassurance calls.
      • Supervision for personal hygiene, eating and dressing.
    • Outside of the home: 
      • Meal preparation and delivery.
      • Essential shopping and errands.
      • Laundry and delivery.
  • For tasks that are not hands-on, maintain 6 feet of distance.
  • If you do not have proper PPE, avoid non-essential tasks that are within 6 feet.
  • Check your client for symptoms for yourself and your client before every shift. This includes checking for fever over 100.4, a new cough, sore throat, new shortness or breath or headache.
  • If you run short on gloves, wash your hands with soap and water frequently and substitute garden or kitchen gloves. Examples of times to wash your hands include:
    • After contact with your client.
    • After blowing your nose or sneezing.
    • Before eating or preparing food.
    • After coming into the client’s home from outside.
    • After touching or handling any deliveries
    • After removing PPE, like gloves or face covers.
  • Bring a change of clothes to work and place these away from your client. When you are done with your shift, change into clean clothes and place dirty clothes in a plastic bag for washing.
  • Have minimal contact with soiled items. For instance, dirty sheets can be carried in a laundry basket that is later disinfected, and caregivers can minimize the transfer or objects by offering a tray of food rather than handing off and collecting individual items.
  • High-touch surfaces (like door knobs, tables, phones, etc.) should be cleaned with soap and water and then disinfected. If disinfectant products are unavailable, use a paper towel dipped in 70% or greater isopropyl or squeeze hand sanitizer onto a paper towel.