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President Trump pushed the Food and Drug Administration to approve a mask-sterilizing technology developed by a nonprofit company in Ohio that would allow health workers fighting the coronavirus to reuse masks.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine criticized the FDA for issuing limited approval for the technology Saturday. But at a press conference Sunday, DeWine said the FDA’s commissioner, Steve Hahn, told him “this would be cleared up today.”
The FDA’s current approval allows Battelle to decontaminate up to 10,000 N95 respirators per day, according to the agency. The company said it could do eight times that number with its Critical Care Decontamination System in West Jefferson, Ohio, if it gets full approval.
“We understand Battelle now would like to expand that capacity, beyond their Ohio facility, and we are working with them, and the state of Ohio, expeditiously so they can scale up their N95 decontamination services to other locations outside of Ohio,” an FDA spokesperson told FOX Business on Sunday.
“Hope the FDA can approve Mask Sterilization equipment ASAP,” Trump tweeted. “As per Governor @MikeDeWine, there is a company in Ohio, @Battelle, which has equipment that can sterilize masks quickly.”
Battelle told FOX Business the research firm is “thankful” for the initial limited approval. It previously said it is rapidly manufacturing more Critical Care Decontamination Systems to be deployed to needy hospitals across the country.
“We continue to work with FDA to maximize the impact of the Critical Care Decontamination System by expanding use to other locations as well as increasing the number of respirator masks that are allowed to be processed each day,” a company spokesperson said.
Hospitals are desperate for personal protective equipment for their workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic response.
Battelle’s method is the same as one confirmed last week by Duke Health, which found that N-95 masks can be safely reused after being decontaminated with vapor phase hydrogen peroxide.
Duke Health’s process takes about four to five hours and involves hanging the masks in a room to be sprayed with the aerosol.
“This is intended to conserve a critical resource, which is our people who support the entire health care process,” Dr. Wayne Thomann of Duke University School of Medicine told FOX Business Thursday.