The fit is important. Every N95 respirator mask must be properly fitted to Dr. Erin Dizon and Dr. Maita Kuvhenguhwa’s heads to ensure an airtight seal that might save their lives.
Then there are the face shields. Patients with COVID-19—which is about all the two infectious disease doctors see these days in the busy Emergency Department of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH)—often present with a hacking cough that can spew invisible virus particles as far as three feet. The virus can enter the body through the eyes, so face shields of all sorts, including goggles and safety masks, are part of the armor both doctors don each day.
With the masks and the shields come isolation gowns to keep the virus from clinging to their clothes, nitro gloves thick enough to protect their hands from punctures, and polypropylene shoe booties that cover their feet. The gear is hot, cumbersome—and critical to keeping healthcare workers safe.
Both Dizon and Kuvhenguhwa are infectious disease doctors, so they know the risks perhaps better than anyone. They’ve studied medical responses to Ebola, SARS and other dangerous outbreaks overseas. They knew it was likely that a pandemic could someday come home.
Now it’s here. COVID-19 has quickly created a new set of risks and responsibilities. Each day, more patients are testing positive for the disease. Each day, the doctors suit up to treat them, knowing that this is just the beginning of a wave of cases to come.