The Complete Pandemic PPE Guide

Personal Protection Equipment or PPE supplies have had shortages over the past few months, with demand exceeding supply due to COVID-19. With COVID-19 cases continuing to increase in the United States at record levels with an average of 50,000 new cases per day over the past week, PPE supplies will be difficult to come by.

The lack of PPE in the U.S. is especially frustrating to healthcare workers because this is the primary defense against catching the virus themselves. 

Guide Menu

The Current State of PPE

Types of PPE

How to Use PPE

Our PPE Products

Appendix - Additional Tips

Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room doctor and researcher at Brown University in Rhode Island who co-founded the volunteer-run organization #GetUsPPE, said as cases in Texas surged, requests for PPE from health facilities in the state shot up. Requests have gone up from 2,000 pieces of equipment last week to more than 220,000 this week.

Kevin Mealy, a spokesperson for the Oregon Nurses Association, told Katu News that nurses are still being asked to reuse PPE. In some cases, nurses are using PPE for multiple patients, which he says is against safety guidelines.

He says, "It's not safe, it's not sustainable. And it will be a problem if we continue to see COVID-19 cases continue to rise as the OHA and others are projecting."

As the urgency of high-profile COVID-19 outbreaks in the north-east of the country and cities such as New York faded in late spring, so did attention to the acute PPE shortage for frontline health workers. But fragile supply chains and wary hospital administrators continue to push some workers to wear N95 masks and gowns for up to a week, even though they are designed to be changed between patients. Frontline health workers have long warned that reusing such equipment leaves them at a higher risk of becoming infected.

"Many people thought once the alarm was sounded back in March surely the federal government would fix this, but that hasn't happened," said Deborah Burger, a California nurse and president of National Nurses United, a union representing registered nurses.

Cases are particularly surging in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, which pushed to reopen their economies early and had looser restrictions.

Demand for protective equipment has soared, but unlike in March, when efforts focused on getting PPE for major hospitals — especially in New York, Detroit, and Chicago — supplies now are desperately needed by primary care offices, nursing homes, prisons, and psychiatric and disability facilities. As many states continue to reopen their economies, demand has also surged from the construction industry, the restaurant industry, and other sectors.

While some workplaces will have PPE that is required daily or worn at all times, other personal protective equipment should be safely stored. The storage of personal protective equipment is almost as necessary has having it on hand, and an obligation set forth by OSHA, specifically requiring that PPE is "maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition." A facility should have a specific area, away from harsh conditions, designated solely for storing PPE. While PPE needs to be stored in a specific drawer or cabinet, it must also be easily accessible in case of emergencies. Facilities should consider having extra PPE on hand. In the case of lost, damaged, or compromised equipment, injuries can be avoided by having extra equipment stored on site. 


The CDC recommends that the general public wear gloves when caring for someone who is sick. In most situations like running errands, pumping gas, or touching the handle of a shopping cart, gloves are not necessary as long as proper hand hygiene is practiced. You use either a hand sanitizer that meets the recommended CDC alcohol level or wash your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds and wear a cloth face-covering in public.

More Uses:

  • If the label on your disinfectant suggests wearing gloves.
  • When caring for someone who is sick.
  • When touching blood, stool, or body fluids, such as saliva, mucus, vomit, and urine.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are a loose-fitting mask that stops droplets that come from the wearer's nose and mouth. Surgical masks also filter out the large particles that are in the air. These masks do not protect the user from smaller particulate in the air like an N95 respirator mask. If you go out in public, a surgical mask is an alternative to cloth face coverings. Still, due to supply issues, it might be best to allow businesses and medical facilities to purchase them if cloth masks are available to you.

CDC Recommended Material:

  • At this time, the CDC has not approved any type of surgical mask specifically for protection against the coronavirus.

Surgical Gowns

Gowns are another crucial piece of personal protection equipment used to combat the coronavirus. They help protect from contact with potentially hazardous liquids or solids. Additionally, they can help prevent the secretion of infectious microorganisms from the wearer. The WHO recommends the use of non-sterile, long sleeve gowns for either aerosol-generating procedures, or non-aerosol generating procedures.

CDC Recommended Material:

Face Shields

Face shields are clear plastic or Plexiglas face coverings that cover the face from the forehead to the bottom of the chin. They are secured by an elastic strap and have a cushion that prevents the plastic from rubbing on your forehead. Face shields can be quickly produced and distributed because of their basic construction. The shields are reusable and can be cleaned between uses with soap and water or proper disinfectant products. Face shields prevent droplets from spreading to others and allow wearers to see each other’s facial expressions easily.

Respirator Masks

Respirators are another form of a mask worn to reduce the risk of inhaling small particulate matter that can be harmful to the user. N95 respirators are commonly used because they filter out 95% of particulate. These respirators are in short supply, and it is recommended that they only are worn by healthcare professionals who need protection from airborne particles and fluid hazards. It is crucial to check if your N95 respirator is NIOSH approved, or it may be a faulty product that doesn't protect the wearer. According to the CDC, "the NIOSH approval label can be found on or within the respirator's packaging or sometimes on the respirator itself."

Cloth Face Coverings

Cloth face masks are either made at home or purchased from numerous vendors who are currently selling them. These masks don’t directly protect you from contracting the virus but are instrumental in preventing you from spreading the virus. These masks are most effective when used by most of the population. The CDC recommends that all people two years of age and older wear a cloth face-covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

How to Apply PPE

  • Identify and gather the proper PPE to put on. Ensure the choice of gown size is correct.
  • Perform hand hygiene using soap and water or a CDC recommended hand sanitizer.
  • Put on isolation gown. Tie all of the ties on the gown. Assistance may be needed from other healthcare personnel.
  • Put on NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator or higher (use a face mask if a respirator is not available). If the respirator has a nose piece, it should be fitted to the nose with both hands, not bent or tented. Do not pinch the nose piece with one hand. Respirator/face mask should be extended under the chin. Both your mouth and nose should be protected. Do not wear respirator/face mask under your chin or store in scrub's pocket between patients.
  • If using a respirator -- Respirator straps should be placed on the crown of the head (top strap) and base of the neck (bottom strap). Perform a user seal check each time you put on the respirator.
  • If using a face mask -- Mask ties should be secured on the crown of the head (top tie) and base of the neck (bottom tie). If the mask has loops, hook them appropriately around your ears.
  • Put on face shield or goggles. When wearing an N95 respirator or half face piece elastomeric respirator, select the proper eye protection to ensure that the respirator does not interfere with the correct positioning of the eye protection, and the eye protection does not affect the fit or seal of the respirator. Face shields provide full-face coverage. Goggles also provide excellent protection for eyes, but fog is common.
  • Put on gloves. Gloves should cover the cuff (wrist) of the gown.

Healthcare personnel may now enter the patient room.

How to Remove PPE

  • Remove gloves. Ensure glove removal does not cause additional contamination of hands. Gloves can be removed using more than one technique.
  • Remove the gown. Untie all ties (or unsnap all buttons). Some gown ties can be broken rather than untied. Do so in a gentle manner, avoiding a forceful movement. Reach up to the shoulders and carefully pull gown down and away from the body. Rolling the gown down is an acceptable approach. Dispose of the trash receptacle.
  • Healthcare personnel may now exit the patient room.
  • Perform proper hand hygiene.
  • Remove face shield or goggles. Carefully remove face shield or goggles by grabbing the strap and pulling upwards and away from the head. Do not touch the front of the face shield or goggles.
  • Remove and discard respirator (or face mask if used instead of respirator). Do not touch the front of the respirator or face mask.
  • If using a respirator -- Remove the bottom strap by touching only the strap and bring it carefully over the head. Grasp the top strap and bring it carefully over the head, and then pull the respirator away from the face without touching the front of the respirator.
  • If using a face mask -- Carefully untie (or unhook from the ears) and pull away from face without touching the front.
  • Perform hand hygiene after removing the respirator/face mask and before putting it on again if your workplace is practicing reuse.

Due to the high demand for PPE products, it has never been harder to source these important products. At Nickel City Innovations, we are committed to providing the PPE items your business or organization needs to keep your personnel protected. We are committed to meeting our customer's needs and forming relationships to ensure that we can help keep you safe. 

Latitude Face Shield

Our Latitude Face Shields help protect the face from liquids and dust. They form an ideal barrier to keep droplets from spraying and stay away from your face to provide additional comfort. These shields cover the entire face to provide maximum protection.

Surgical Gowns

This latex-free gown protects the wearer from fluids and other potentially harmful substances. Ensure that this gown is the correct type for your facility. Find out how your facility can use gowns today! 

KN95 Face Mask

The KN95 mask is a great civilian or professional face mask (not for surgical environments). These four-layer masks help prevent the spread of illness by containing respiratory droplets. The masks are FDA approved.

No Contact Thermometers

These non-contact, digital thermometers have a quick; one second read time with an easy to read digital display. These thermometers meet FDA, CE, and CFDA requirements.

Safetec EZ Personal Protection Kit (24/Cs)

Safetec's personal EZ Personal Protection Kit provides all the pieces needed for full protection from any blood or bodily fluids. The kit is great for any medical facilities, labs, nursing homes, emergency vehicles, or places with potentially harmful exposure to blood or bodily fluids. The kit contains a pair of vinyl gloves, a fluid-resistant gown, a combo mask/safety shield, a red biohazard waste bag, a twist tie, a p.a.w.s.® Antimicrobial Hand Wipe, and instructions.

What's Next?

Now that you know about the serious lack of PPE due to the pandemic, it is important to consider what your business needs to properly reopen. Our experts understand that this is a difficult time for many businesses and are here to assist you in sourcing the products you need to reopen safely. If you have questions about what products your organization needs to keep your employees safe, or want to discuss how Nickel City can be the solution to your infection control problems, head over here now!

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, you should clean your hands after being in a public place and touch an item or surface that other people frequently contact. This includes door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens, etc. It would help if you also cleaned your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because that's how germs enter your body.
  • Use Hand Sanitizer When You Can't Use Soap and Water. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You can tell if the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol by looking at the product label.