What's PPE?

The different types of PPE include face shields, gloves, goggles and glasses, gowns, head covers, masks, respirators, and shoe covers. Face shields, gloves, goggles and glasses, gowns, head covers, and shoe covers protect against the transmission of germs through contact and droplet routes.

Surgical Masks

Although not as secure as N95 masks, surgical masks do offer a significant degree of protection against droplets with SARS-CoV-2.

Face Shields

Assists in preventing droplets and airborne SARS-CoV-2 from entering eyes, a known source of transmission.


These microporous suits are worn over clothing to keep airborne and droplet transmission via clothing.


Booties are worn over shoes to eliminate floor contact and can be useful in situations where there might be sputum or other fluids on the floor that could get carried around the hospital or to the healthcare worker’s home on their shoes.


Gowns cover the clothing, and thought not as effective as coveralls, they can provide an additional layer of protection, especially when working with COVID-19 patients directly and performing risky procedures.



Isolation gowns are normally worn only once /  not for the purpose of reuse (learn more about PPE suppliers Cardinal Health / Halyard -- they are experiencing global supply chain problem), but due to the shortage, the rule is changing every day. Please note isolation gown is different from surgical gown. Isolation gown is a long sleeve protection with elastic cuff that is worn over uniform. 

What are they made of?

More information about PPE materials. See required material standard. Can you use your own materials? (here "What Are The Best Materials for Making DIY Masks? Muslin and non-woven cotton")  

Do you want to get fabric? Please see a list of suppliers.

For masks, Providence Hospitals in Washington provided surgical wraps / sterilization wraps to produce masks for local production. 

Available on amazon. (24 x 24 or 48 x 48)

Please note that home made masks are included in the CDC in their Crisis Capacity Strategies Section, but are not a suitable substitute for N95 masks or other medical grade PPE. 

What does CDC says in response to this PPE shortage?

"In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face."

PPE Best Practices

The CDC and the FDA both provide resources regarding PPEs online. The CDC has issued new strategies to optimize the supply of PPE.

Guidance on PPE supplied by Health Care Workers

The Joint Commission has offered guidance that supports allowing staff to bring their own standard face masks or respirators to wear at work when their healthcare organizations cannot routinely provide access to protective equipment that is commensurate with the risk to which they are exposed. In taking this position, The Joint Commission recognizes:

  1. Hospitals must conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) when these items are in short supply to protect staff who perform high-risk procedures.
  2. The degree to which privately-owned masks and respirators will increase the protection of healthcare workers is uncertain, but the balance of evidence suggests that it is positive.
  3. No Joint Commission standards or other requirements prohibit staff from using PPE brought from home.
  4. Homemade masks are an extreme measure and should be used only when standard PPE of proven protective value is unavailable.

For more information, including the evidence and policy analysis used by Joint Commission in making this statement, see the "Joint Commission Statement on Use of Face Masks Brought From Home."

*Updated* About Isolation Gowns per the CDC

Now "cloth" is allowed. 

Conventional capacity: measures consist of providing patient care without any change in daily contemporary practices. This set of measures, consisting of engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment (PPE) controls should already be implemented in general infection prevention and control plans in healthcare settings.
Contingency capacity: measures may change daily standard practices but may not have any significant impact on the care delivered to the patient or the safety of healthcare personnel (HCP). These practices may be used temporarily during periods of expected isolation gown shortages.

Shift gown use towards cloth isolation gowns.
Reusable (i.e., washable) gowns are typically made of polyester or polyester-cotton fabrics. Gowns made of these fabrics can be safely laundered according to routine procedures and reused. Care should be taken to ensure that HCP do not touch outer surfaces of the gown during care.

Crisis capacity: strategies that are not commensurate with standard U.S. standards of care. These measures, or a combination of these measures, may need to be considered during periods of known isolation gown shortages.