Mask reuse 'can't become new norm' - Albuquerque Journal

Mask reuse ‘can’t become new norm’

Face coverings became a concern early in the COVID-19 outbreak because of a shortage of medical personal protective equipment, or PPE – in New Mexico and nationwide. Health officials urged the public not to obtain surgical masks and N95s as a way to ensure supplies for those on the medical front lines. And at times, nurses in New Mexico would have to reuse scarce N95 masks for up to five days.

“The administration (of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham) has leapt tall buildings to get PPE,” said Deborah Walker, executive director of the New Mexico Nurses Association. And hospitals, including University of New Mexico Hospital and Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, have since promoted disinfecting N95s for reuse.

“But that is still a crisis standard,” Walker said. “And we don’t have enough research to know how many times they can be disinfected.”

The possible health hazards to nurses and others who wear the disinfected masks are also unknown.

“This can’t become the new norm,” she added.

“As we continue, that is not the standard our nurses deserve,” said Walker, who said she still receives “anecdotal reports” from among the 20,000 licensed New Mexico nurses about lack of PPE.

Nowadays, N95 masks are typically used when treating COVID-19 patients.

But Walker said she knows of nurses treating non-COVID-19 patients who are supposed to wear surgical masks for an entire shift, which can last 12 hours. In pre-COVID-19 days, “they changed (masks) every time they needed to,” she said.

Nurses are trained in infection control, Walker said. But “it’s no longer the nurses’ judgment as to when they are to change a surgical mask.”

She said her association wants to see a “supply chain that goes back to pre-COVID standards.”

Meanwhile, Sheena Ferguson, a registered nurse with the Medical Reserve Corps, helps screen Albuquerque’s homeless for the virus, and she volunteers at Roadrunner Food Bank.

She also wears a cloth mask over her surgical mask. That way, she can wash the cloth mask along with her scrubs every night and keep the surgical mask for future use.

Never before would she have thought of reusing a surgical mask, Ferguson told the Journal last week. “It’s just new territory all the way around.”

Home » News » New Mexico News » Mask reuse ‘can’t become new norm’

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

Feather a nest: Home gifts range from practical to ...
2022 Holiday Gift Guide
As winter's chill frosts the city, ... As winter's chill frosts the city, nestling at home by a cozy fire seems like the obvious choice.

Unwrapping fun: Toys and games light up kids’ ...
2022 Holiday Gift Guide
Nothing lights up a child's face ... Nothing lights up a child's face when unwrapping a present like a toy. Sure, socks are great and a n ...
Home for the holidays: Local shops offer gift options ...
2022 Holiday Gift Guide
"Oh, there's no place like home ... "Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays."The sentiment rings true for many si ...
A little pampering: Day spa packages are a ...
2022 Holiday Gift Guide
When adults reach a certain age, ... When adults reach a certain age, it becomes difficult to shop for them, especially if they come in p ...
Gadgets & gizmos: Sales and deals make big-ticket items ...
2022 Holiday Gift Guide
With the holidays right around the ... With the holidays right around the corner, it is almost time to finalize those shopping lists. ...
Candies, cookies, cakes and more always welcome at holidays
2022 Holiday Gift Guide
Journal Staff WriterChocolate – ... Journal Staff WriterChocolate – some say it's the gift from gods. ...
Shiny & Bright: Add a little sparkle to the ...
2022 Holiday Gift Guide
The holiday season can be such ... The holiday season can be such a bright and shiny time of the year, so giving a little something sim ...
Here's what you need to know for this year's ...
ABQnews Seeker
Festival of the Cranes is back ... Festival of the Cranes is back after a two-year hiatus
Hawaii's Mauna Loa erupts, officials warn people to prepare
ABQnews Seeker
Waves of orange, glowing lava and ... Waves of orange, glowing lava and smoky ash erupted Monday from the world's largest active volcano and people living on Hawaii's Big Island were ...