The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued respiratory protection guidance focused on protecting workers in nursing homes, assisted living communities and other long-term care facilities from occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus. 

The measures are recommended for everyone in such facilities, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of the virus. They include wearing cloth face coverings, facemasks, and/or FDA-cleared or authorized surgical masks at all times while inside a long-term care facility, including in break rooms or other spaces where workers might encounter other people. The guidance also mandates that healthcare providers who are in close contact with long-term care residents with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infections must use a NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator or equivalent or higher-level respirator, as required by OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard

The agency also advises employers to reassess their engineering and administrative controls, such as ventilation and practices for physical distancing, hand hygiene and cleaning/disinfecting surfaces, to identify changes that could avoid over-reliance on respirators and other personal protective equipment. 

“This is especially vital considering the current supply chain demand for N95 filtering facepieces,” the guidance noted.