Inspire Confidence – Covid-19 and Personal Protective Equipment

Update 03/17/20 New information from France indicates that Covid-19 responds better to acetaminophen’s anti-inflammatory properties and ibuprofen is NOT recommended and can aggravate the disease process. 

As we move through the Covid-19 pandemic it is clear that there is an educational deficit. That’s not anyone’s fault, just like Covid-19 isn’t any one person’s fault, there is no reason for most of the population to know how to properly us Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). So, we’re going to cover some pointers and videos. First some foundational information:

Covid-19 is a virus, not a bacterium. There is a very important distinction in these two things, one can be treated by antibiotics (bacteria) and one that cannot (viruses). Using antibacterial products will provide no additional protection at this time, please do not take unnecessary antibiotics or use medicated antibacterial products as that practice leads to “superbugs”, bacteria that develops drug resistances.

PPE is used for two reasons in the medical field – to avoid getting an infection or to prevent spreading an infection.

What is PPE?

Gloves, protective gowns/aprons, foot coverings, masks, face shields, Tyvek suits, hazmat suits, N95 respirators, and the like.

Who needs PPE?

People who come into contact with dangerous chemicals, infectious diseases, any bodily fluids, and other dangerous materials. Doctors, nurses, aides, pharmacists, police, fire fighters, dentists, first responders, and anyone else who deals directly with bodily fluids NEED PPE right now.

Who doesn’t need PPE?

Ordinarily, most people don’t need PPE and for the most part right now, most people STILL don’t need PPE, because we are supposed to be practicing social distancing and staying home. Unless you are in a situation where you are going to be caring for sick or at risk people, you are personally at greater risk for infection, or your profession utilizes PPE, please don’t buy surgical masks and gloves, you are preventing medical providers and those most at risk from having critical supplies for their jobs. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT STEAL PPE.

How do I use PPE?

If you must use PPE, learn and practice how and when to don and doff it to prevent cross contamination. This video was put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help train medical personnel on how to use PPE when dealing with Ebola. At this time, healthcare providers are utilizing similar PPE measures while dealing with Covid-19. As you can see, this is a lengthy process that involves many steps and frequent use of ABHR. Many of you will not be in situations where PPE will be of great value to you. Surgical masks do not prevent the inhalation of all airborne particles, respirators are necessary for that, and gloves are only useful if you use them during appropriate times and situations.

How do I stay safe then?

Wash your hands using soap and warm (not hot or cold, but a comfortable temperature) water for a minimum of 20 seconds to keep your hands clean. If you do not have access to soap and water, use 60% alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR). Do this often, especially between touching surfaces, your face, another person (try not to touch other people), toileting (before and after), eating (before and after), whenever your hands are visibly soiled, and any other time that you stop to think “are my hands clean?”

You utilize social distancing. Maintain a 6’ distance from other people when you are out in public. While at this time restaurants and stores are not closing, use your BEST decision-making skills and do not endanger yourself or other by going out if you don’t feel well. If you do not have the best decision-making skill, use an overabundance of caution and do not go out. There are very good reasons why schools and business have closed and moved to teleworking, this is in order to “flatten the curve”.

What will flattening the curve do?

Covid-19 is designated a “novel” virus, which means none of us have ever had it, been exposed to it, or have any immunity to it secondary to other similar viruses. That means we ALL have to develop some kind of immunity to it (more on that in a second). At this moment, scientists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others specialized in their scientific fields are working very hard to develop a vaccine for this virus. Until then, we are all at risk of catching Covid-19 and we can become reinfected. While this critical research goes on, we need to reduce the number of sick people as we have finite and limited resources to care for those who are sick – limited hospital bed, limited healthcare staff, limited PPE, limited resources and supplies – if too many of us get sick at the same time, we will overload the system and it will fail.

Comparative chart of Philadelphia and St. Louis during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Chart by the National Academy of Sciences.

During the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 Philadelphia and St. Louis had two different response times. Philly was slower to institute social distancing than St. Louis and a quick look at the graph shows how St. Louis’ response “flattened the curve”. If we can replicate a curve like St. Louis’ now, we can buy ourselves time for screening and testing of every person (yes, every person), as well as develop and produce a vaccine for every person who is able to receive the vaccine to get it. This last part is critical, there will be people who cannot be given the vaccine for various reasons, those of us who can safely get the vaccine MUST get it to provide herd immunity for those who are at great risk but for one reason or another cannot get it. This is not the time for anti-vaccine rhetoric, this is a time for tested and established scientific method to be utilized.

What can I do now?

You can be patient with the situation and others around you. This is a truly unique and new situation nearly everyone who is alive today. We each respond to the stress of this situation differently, there is definitely a panic setting in. Please do not panic, that will not help you or others in the long run. There is a lot of disappointment as social gatherings are being canceled every day. Birthday parties, weddings, church gatherings, school dances, ball games, vacations, conventions, and on and on. Most of us are in a state of fear and grief for the loss of things we didn’t even know we would ever lose.

Lastly, this will take a global effort to overcome, no one country can do this on their own and for the sake of our global family, we should be helping one another however we can. Eradicating Covid-19 in one country is of little value if the rest of the world is still struggling to find a solution. If you have read all of this and you aren’t afraid, even a little, please carefully consider your actions for those around you and choose safety and caution.

I wrote a similar post over on Facebook through Four Horsemen Games if you are looking for some other ideas of how to get through this safely. Again, if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts on this matter, leave a comment. For full disclosure, I am not putting Inspire Confidence on hiatus, however I am considered “Essential Personnel” at this time a nurse for my local health department. I hope to continue to have a blog up with some regularity, but I don’t know how that’s going to look over the next few weeks to months. This is an ever evolving situation and staying on top of the situation will help you make the best decisions. Be certain to follow credible news sources. Take care of yourselves and one another.


Monica Marlowe

Monica Marlowe is the 2015 Paizo RPG Superstar. Winning the contest launched her freelance game designing career. Her winning adventure, "Down the Blighted Path" and PFS scenario "Captive in Crystal" are available through Paizo. She’s publishing additional gaming materials under Marlowe House and through 3rd party publishers. Monica is also active in the ongoing education in gender, sexual, and racial equality in the gaming community. Driven by a desire to see a more diverse gaming community, Monica has joined the Know Direction network to help and encourage all gamers, veteran and new, to find their voices. Monica lives in southwest Ohio with her husband, Andrew, and 2 children, Kate and Thomas.