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To Prevent N95 Shortage, Hospitals Use New Decontamination Process

Courtesy of VCU



Researchers at VCU have developed a new way to decontaminate N-95 masks in bulk. The masks are important protection for doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients, and now VCU health officials say they can safely be reused. 


The N-95 masks are being decontaminated using ultraviolet light. Using UV light to kill viruses isn’t new, but what VCU has done is made it possible on a large scale. explains doctor Stephen Kates. 

“We’ve made it on a production line where we are decontaminating many many masks at one time,” explains doctor Stephen Kates, who helped develop the process. 

In addition to cleaning 12,000 masks a day, the health system has also developed rigorous quality control so they know the masks are still effective. 

“We re-inspect the mask to make sure it’s ok, put it in a plastic packaging, and then return it to its previous owner for use on their next shift,” says Kates. 

The goal is to prevent a shortage of masks as the number of coronavirus patients rises. VCU has shared details of the sterilization procedure with the University of Virginia and Sentara Health. 

A spokesman for UVA says they intend to use the procedure as well.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.