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FEMA Contract Sending Mask-Disinfecting System To Oregon 

Federal authorities have allotted Oregon a mask-disinfecting system to help health care providers stretch supplies of personal protective gear.
N-95 respirators are staged for disinfection in a Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System. Source: Battelle.
April 27, 2020


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Federal authorities have allotted Oregon a mask-disinfecting system to help health care providers stretch supplies of personal protective gear. 

The Battelle system can disinfect 85,000 N95 masks a day by running them through a hydrogen peroxide-based system that looks like a container. Battelle is deploying 60 of these so-called critical care decontamination systems throughout the United States. Oregon obtained one through a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Battelle will operate the system with a crew of about 20 staff. The operation will be based in Eugene so it can disinfect masks from several areas of the state, said Erica Euen, a spokesperson for the COVID-19 Joint Information Center.

Gov. Kate Brown said the Battelle system will help the state clean masks in a safe, environmentally friendly way. The Battelle system is an example of the state’s efforts to bolster its resources of personal protective equipment, Brown said in a news conference last week.

Battelle will not charge Oregon health care responders to disinfect their masks. FEMA will cover the contractor’s costs of staffing the system and shipping it to Oregon from Ohio. A longtime federal and commercial contractor, Battelle, is based in Columbus, Ohio and started in 1929. The company’s portfolio includes research to protect military personnel from chemical and biological attacks, medical research and environmental projects.

“Since bringing the first system online, we have received hundreds of requests for CCDS systems and services,” Matt Vaughan, Battelle’s contract research president, said in a statement. 

The federal government, not Battelle, decides where the systems go. The machines are already operating in New York City, Chicago, Boston and the Seattle area.

Participating health care providers ship labeled masks to the decontamination site where technicians log the inventory and put barcodes on the equipment to track it. Inside the machine, the masks are hit with vaporized hydrogen peroxide that’s in a high enough concentration to neutralize  the virus on masks. The system can treat the same mask 20 times. 

State officials don’t know when the equipment will arrive, but the system will be shipped out on Tuesday, Euen said. 

Oregon didn’t have any details on how medical providers can get the services, but state officials expect to have those details later this week.  

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.