With medical supplies in high demand, federal authorities say health workers can wear surgical masks for protection while treating COVID-19 patients — but growing evidence suggests the practice is putting workers in jeopardy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said lower-grade surgical masks are “an acceptable alternative” to N95 masks unless workers are performing an intubation or another procedure on a COVID patient that could unleash a high volume of virus particles.

Special Reports COVID-19

Lost On The Frontline

America’s health care workers are dying from the coronavirus pandemic. These are some of the first tragic cases.

But scholars, nonprofit leaders and former regulators in the specialized field of occupational safety say relying on surgical

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