COVID-19 Breakthrough: New invention being installed at Camp Murray can sterilize, recycle 80,000 protective masks daily

VIDEO: New invention being installed at Camp Murray can sterilize, recycle 80,000 protective masks every day

A large revolutionary decontamination system being installed at Camp Murray, which will be able to clean and sterilize up to 80,000 protective N-95 respirator masks every day, is being called an exciting breakthrough that could help solve the shortage of masks for healthcare professionals fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The process called the “Critical Care Decontamination System” uses four retrofitted shipping containers joined together and so far, it’s the only one of it’s kind anywhere on the West Coast.

The system--which was quickly invented and refined by the Ohio-based science and technology company Battelle--uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide and alcohol to clean and sanitize used masks which would have otherwise been tossed in biohazard bags after a single-use. It received a rush “emergency” approval from the FDA after it was proven to be effective in sanitizing a single mask up to twenty times after use in contaminated conditions.

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“The decontamination procedure is about three and a half hours, followed by several hours of aeration to get to a level where staff can re-enter that space,” said Will Richter, Principal Scientist at Battelle.

There are only four of them in the country now--and they’re expected to help--or even end the shortage of masks for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cassie Sauer, who runs the WA State Hospital Association, said the system could make a major impact on the vast shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders and health care workers.

"We are really excited about this decontamination unit coming to Washington," Sauer said. "We're really grateful that we're one of the first sites selected to have this unit."

The system is expected to run around the clock, and put more than half a million masks safely back in use in hospitals, clinics and fire departments every week.

"So when a delivery truck shows up to drop off their next shipment, they'll drop off, reload with the PPE that's been decontaminated the previous day, said Richter.

"The shortage of PPE is serious, it's really significant and N-95 masks are the best protection for workers against COVID spread," said Sauer. "So the chance that we can reuse the masks we have now and know we're doing it safely is just tremendous."

The Battelle Critical Care decontamination system is expected to be fully functional at Camp Murray by April 7.