This study aimed to compare the costs incurred and saved from universal use of N95 respirators with surgical masks for operating room providers in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We built a decision analytic model to compare direct medical costs of healthcare workers (HCWs) infected with COVID-19 during operating room procedures from expected transmission when using an N95 respirator relative to a surgical mask. We also examined quarantine costs.
Results varied depending upon prevalence and false-negative rates of tests, but if N95 respirators reduce transmission by 2.8%, prevalence is at 1%, and testing yields 20% false negatives, providers should be willing to pay an additional $0.64 per HCW for the additional protection. Under this scenario, approximately 11 COVID-19 cases would be averted among HCWs per day.
Potential savings depend on disease prevalence, rate of asymptomatic patients with COVID-19, accuracy of testing, the marginal cost of respirators, and the quarantine period. We provide a range of calculations to show under which conditions N95 respirators are cost saving.
Kandice A. Kapinos Jordan R. Salley Andrew Day