Nearly three quarters of U.S. infection preventionists say that healthcare facilities have officially have resorted to reusing single-use respirators, face masks, face shields or eye protection, according to a survey published this week.

The nationwide survey queried more than 1,000 participants — 18% of whom serve long-term care facilities — between Oct. 22 and Nov. 5. Although supplies are not as low as they were in the spring, fully 73% of all respondents said that facilities have implemented crisis standards of care for personal protective equipment. 

What’s more, three quarters of the infection preventionists who reported respirator or mask reuse said that their healthcare facilities allow staff members to reuse the equipment either five times or “as many times as possible” before getting a new one, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, which conducted the research.

“It is disheartening to see our healthcare system strained and implementing PPE crisis standards of care more than eight months into the pandemic,” said APIC President Connie Steed, MSN, RN. “Many of us on the frontlines are waiting for the other shoe to drop.” 

In fact, more than half of respondents said they were strongly or somewhat concerned about the ability of facilities to provide safe care in light of PPE shortages and capacity issues as the pandemic and flu season converge.

APIC is encouraging the public to practice safe infection control measures — in part to lessen the strain on the healthcare system.