The estimated number of masks that can be reused each day.
On Sunday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the decontamination of N95 masks as well as masks of similar quality. This allows the use of specific sterilization machines for up to two decontamination processes on a mask, though the mask can only be worn by the original user. As many hospitals and other medical facilities already have the necessary machinery, the move frees up roughly 4 million masks a day for reuse.
No more single-use masks — Though getting a couple of extra uses might not sound like a lot, it stretches the use of available medical-grade masks much further. Nearly 10,000 Advanced Sterilization Products’ (ASP) STERRAD machines are in use at about 6,300 hospitals across the country. Each machine can sterilize 480 masks per day, buying some time for medical supply manufacturers and other companies trying to assist to catch up.
“This authorization will help provide access to millions of respirators so our health care workers on the front lines can be better protected and provide the best care to patients with COVID-19,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a statement.
The machines take anywhere from 24 to 55 minutes to sterilize the masks using vaporized hydrogen peroxide gas. Battelle was also recently authorized to sterilize masks using concentrated hydrogen peroxide vapor in its Critical Care Decontamination Systems. Though that process takes about two and a half hours, it can be replicated 20 times.