You Asked, We Answered

If a visitor does not wear a mask when in a patient’s room with a VUMC employee, is the employee protected from COVID-19, which the visitor may be asymptomatically shedding?

Yes. VUMC employees who enter a patient’s room with someone who is not wearing a mask are protected if they are following VUMC guidance: wearing a surgical mask, wearing eye protection, and practicing hand hygiene. Surgical masks protect against droplets being shed by the person wearing the mask AND against breathing in droplets shed by someone else. As a reminder, for other serious infections spread by droplets, such as contagious meningitis, health care personnel have depended on surgical masks for personal protection for years, even when the contagious patient is not wearing a mask.

Clarification on Face Shield Guidance

Last week in MyVUMC we published a “You Asked and We Answered” about patients wearing face shields. Based on further inquiries regarding an allowance of face shields in certain circumstances, we wish to provide further detail and clarifications:

Are patient and visitors allowed to wear face shields rather than masks?

An update to this guidance has been published.   While masking is the preferred intervention to prevent transmission, some people may ask to utilize face shields to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not endorse the use of face shields. However, recent data suggest some benefit, as long as the shield covers the full face down to below the chin area.

Can I use my own N95 respirator?

Question: Can I use my own N95 respirator while I’m here at work? Answer: No. The Medical Center’s Supply Chain experts have worked very hard to ensure that VUMC always has an available supply of PPE on hand. This includes readily available N95 respirator masks for individuals who need these to perform their work. To ensure the continued safety of employees and our patients please use an authorized N95 respirator provided by the Medical Center. 

Does prolonged wearing of a facemask cause harm?

Question:  I have heard about concerns that wearing a mask for a prolonged period of time can cause you to retain or breathe in more carbon dioxide (CO2) or get less oxygen and this can make you sick.  I even heard about people who had car accidents they felt were due to this issue.  Does mask wearing for a prolonged time cause this?

Can COVID-19 be spread by persons who are asymptomatic?

Yes. Certainly, people at greatest risk for spreading COVID-19 are symptomatic people. We need to remember that before symptoms begin, during a period when infected people are “presymptomatic,” they can shed significant amounts of SARS-CoV-2 virus and infect others.