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VERIFY: Are healthcare workers required to wear personal protective equipment?

Central State Hospital emailed employees asking them not to wear PPE because it violated dress code policy

MACON, Ga. — 53-year-old Mark DeLong, a nurse at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, died this weekend. He was the first Baldwin County COVID-19-related death. According to his wife, DeLong tested positive for COVID-19, but had also been dealing with heart problems for years. 

Since his death, we've received more than a dozen calls from employees at Central State Hospital who say administration refused to let them where personal protective gear. Are healthcare workers required to wear personal protective equipment? Ashlyn Webb verifies. 

Her sources are guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

Administrators at Central State Hospital sent an email to employees last week, telling them not to wear masks and other personal protective equipment around patients, saying it violated their dress code policy.

Credit: WMAZ
Credit: Central State

The policy isn't specific on masks; however, it states, "apparel that inhibits facial recognitions is not permitted to be worn while working."

After nurse Mark DeLong died, another email was sent saying they could bring their own PPE in.

Credit: WMAZ

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities sent us a statement saying they're following CDC and Department of Public Health guidelines.

So, are healthcare workers required to wear personal protective equipment?

"For the healthcare workers that are not treating COVID-19 patients, obviously, they might not get the PPE gear that a COVID-19 response individual might get," said Michael Hokanson, a spokesperson with the North Central Health District. 

In cases where a healthcare worker is treating a COVID-19 patient or someone who is believed to have those symptoms is when full PPE is recommended. 

"That's a face shield, goggles, masks, N95 or better, gloves, gown," Dr. Lance Slade said. 

But the problem is the shortage of protective gear nationwide. 

Hospitals are now having to use strategies to increase the lifespan of protective gear. 

The CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, have posted recommendations for personal protective equipment to use, keeping in mind the shortage. The guidelines are based on exposure risk of the employee. So, some healthcare employees can work in medium exposure risk while others could work in very high exposure risk based on CDC and OSHA guidelines.

We verified that not all healthcare workers are required to wear personal protective equipment. 

Recommendations and requirements through the Center for Disease Control, Department of Public Health, and OSHA vary depending on the anticipated exposure and the specific type of PPE, according to CDC press officer Arleen Porcell. 

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities said in a statement there is no ban on commercially available PPE: 

"If an employee has it and wants to wear it to work, even when the situation does not call for its use according the Department of Public Health and Center for Disease Control guidelines," said Angelyn Dionysatos McDonald, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities press secretary. 

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