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Decontamination System for N95 masks set up in Robstown

Posted at 12:42 AM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 01:45:11-04

A Critical Care Decontamination System has been set up at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds in Robstown.

This is one of six decontamination systems set up in the state of Texas. It was created by a non-profit group called Battelle to address the current shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across the country.

"We’ve been licensed by the FDA and DLA to do these systems throughout the United States,“ said Battelle Logistics Technician Rudy Villareal said.

The system will clean N95 masks so they can be reused by area healthcare personnel and first responders. Medical masks generally are disposable, but experts say when there is a short supply, the reuse of masks is acceptable.

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The system will be able to decontaminate up to 80,000 N95 respirators a day.

"It’s reassuring to know that they have that kind of capacity should we ever have a huge spike in the use of medical equipment,“ said Nueces County Precinct 3 Commissioner John Marez.

Those interested in having PPE decontaminated for their must sign-up through Battelle's website .

Boxes of used masks will be securely shipped to the facility through Cardinal Health or FedEx.

The masks are placed inside the chambers and cleaned through a process using vapor hydrogen peroxide.

“Once that is complete, the operator will come out of the chamber," Villarreal said. "The door will be sealed and the de-con process will continue. We’ll heat up the hydrogen peroxide to a certain temperature to its gas form then it will travel throughout the chamber.“

The entire process takes about 72 hours. Masks will be shipped back to where they came from, ready to be reused.

"To us, it means really stretching out our stockpile of the masks that we have invested in," Marez said. "Hopefully there will not be a return, but if there is, this will prolong the use of those masks.“

They are hoping to start decontaminating PPE later this week.

The county plans to keep Battelle here as long as there is a need. This program is paid for with federal funding, at no cost to taxpayers.