USA – Federal officials design new mask guidelines to better protect more workers

Federal officials announced new measures to help get fresh, new N95 masks to health care workers and expand their use in other industries after scientists argued that the highly protective masks are essential to keep workers safe from covid-19.

The changes come as US mask-makers say the demand from hospitals is so sluggish that they’ve laid off 2,000 workers and fear some new protective gear companies could collapse. Yet in a letter to lawmakers, hospitals cite ongoing concerns about scarce supplies, saying limits on which workers should get N95s must stay in place.

Among the new moves: The Food and Drug Administration plans to eventually revoke its approval of the widespread crisis-era practice of decontaminating N95 respirators and returning them to front-line workers to use again.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official also announced a tweak to its guidelines, which used to say the protective N95 respirators were reserved for health workers. Now they are “prioritized” for those workers but will be OK for bulk sales to other employers — a step that should boost overall demand…