America’s FDA Eases Restrictions on Mask-Sterilizing Technology Amid Coronavirus Shortages

USA Today reports:
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Sunday afternoon said federal officials have promised to ease restrictions on a technology to clean and reuse the masks deemed the safest for healthcare workers and first responders in the coronavirus outbreak….

Officials are scrambling for the N95 masks and other protective equipment for health care workers as the number of COVID-19 cases is expected to spike over the coming months. On Saturday, DeWine publicly pleaded with the FDA to approve an emergency-use permit for [Columbus-based research firm] Battelle’s technology amid a shortage of personal protective equipment, including masks…. The U.S. death total has doubled in two days, climbing above 2,300 Sunday. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been a leading voice in the effort to curb the outbreak, said 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die before the crisis is over.

DeWine said those numbers make it urgent for the FDA to clean as many masks as it can… The Battelle process uses “vapor phase hydrogen peroxide” to sanitize the N95 masks, allowing them to be reused up to 20 times, the company said in a statement. Each of the company’s Critical Care Decontamination Systems can sterilize 80,000 masks per day, Battelle said… DeWine on Sunday said the FDA authorized Battelle to sterilize just 10,000 surgical masks a day. “They’re only approved a fraction of what we can do,” DeWine said during the press conference.
But DeWine said in his afternoon press conference that an FDA commissioner told him “this would be cleared up today.”

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