Many clinicians are uncertain about whether eye protection needs to be used when seeing asymptomatic patients. The IDSA acknowledges that there are not studies that have looked critically at eye protection, but the society also acknowledges “appropriate personal protective equipment includes, in addition to a mask or respirator, eye protection, gown and gloves.”1 In addition, the CDC recommends that, for healthcare workers located in areas with moderate or higher prevalence of COVID-19, HCPs should wear eye protection in addition to facemasks since they may encounter asymptomatic individuals with COVID-19.
Gowns and gloves
Gowns and gloves are recommended as a part of personal protective gear when caring for patients who have COVID-19. The IDSA guideline is clear in its recommendations, but does not cite evidence for having no gloves versus having gloves. Furthermore, they state that the evidence is insufficient to recommend double gloves, with the top glove used to take off a personal protective gown, and the inner glove discarded after the gown is removed. The CDC do not make recommendations for routine use of gloves in the care of patients who do not have COVID-19, even in areas where there may be asymptomatic COVID-19, and recommends standard precautions, specifically practicing hand hygiene before and after patient contact.8
The Bottom Line
When seeing patients with COVID-19, N-95 masks, goggles or face shields, gowns, and gloves should be used, with hand hygiene routinely practiced before and after seeing patients. For offices seeing patients not suspected of having COVID-19, the IDSA guideline clarifies that there is not a statistical difference in acquisition of infection with the use of surgical face masks vs N95 respirators. According to the CDC recommendations, eye protection in addition to facemasks should be used by the health care provider, and masks should be worn by patients. Hand hygiene should be used routinely before and after all patient contact. With use of these approaches, it should be safe for offices to reopen and see patients.
Neil Skolnik, MD, is professor of family and community medicine at the Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, and associate director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at Abington (Pa.) Jefferson Health. Jeffrey Matthews, DO, is a second-year resident in the Family Medicine Residency at Abington Jefferson Health. For questions or comments, feel free to contact Dr. Skolnik on Twitter @NeilSkolnik.
1. Lynch JB, Davitkov P, Anderson DJ, et al. COVID-19 Guideline, Part 2: Infection Prevention. IDSA Home.. April 27, 2020. Accessed June 10, 2020.
4. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2020 Apr 4..
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Suspected or Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Healthcare Settings.. Accessed Jun 16, 2020.
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control FAQs for COVID-19.