When Dr. Steven Miller treated COVID-19 patients on the frontlines at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, he didn’t wear a standard N95 mask. He wore an elastomeric respirator, a type of reusable personal protective equipment with uses P95 cotton filters.
“It’s an N95 equivalent, but also filters out aerosols,” Miller explained. “They will last indefinitely. They never have to be replaced.”
Miller says the respirator is regularly sanitized with disinfectant and its filters are swapped out daily. It costs around $40, but is expected to last years. It’s a bargain, Miller and others say, compared to disposable N95 masks, which now run $4 to $5 a piece.
“This message is not even that hard: It costs less, it lasts longer. I don’t know what other message you’d need,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
He is joining with the Brooklyn Hospital Center, the New York State Nurses Association, and the non-profit organization COVID Courage, in demanding that Mayor de Blaiso and Governor Cuomo support hospitals in acquiring this type of reusable PPE.
“It’s not what I want them to hear from me. It’s what I want them to hear from the nurses and doctors,” Williams explained. “They are the ones that are saying please help because they were left in the lurch in a way I don’t think people really understand.”
In preparation for a second wave of COVID-19 cases, the governor has required that hospitals have a 90-day supply of PPE.
“Unfortunately right now, some hospitals do have to fend for themselves and what we will see is that hospitals that have more money, particularly the private hospitals, might fare a little better than the public ones. We don’t want that to happen,” said Williams.
COVID Courage has worked through the pandemic to raise more than $90,000 for the purchase of PPE for health workers in New York City. Now the group is raising money to outfit all frontline COVID workers of the Brooklyn Hospital Center with reusable PPE. Williams is calling on city and state leaders to invest in reusable PPE and help find manufacturers.
The city's Department of Health says it's committed to helping hospitals request emergency PPE supplies when their own resources are depleted. A request for comment from the governor’s office was not immediately returned.