The safety of our faculty, staff, and patients is always our top priority. That’s why Central Sterilizing Services, Emergency Management, Employee Health, the College of Public Health, the Program of Hospital Epidemiology, and the State Hygienics Lab teamed up to collaborate in an innovative and safe way to reprocess our N95 masks.
Thanks to the collaboration of these teams, we now have the ability to reprocess approximately 1,000 N95 masks each day. We’re also prepared to extend capabilities to reprocess up to 2,000 masks a day, if necessary.
Currently this team operates from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and they’re working to expand operations.
How the N95 masks are reprocessed
To correctly and safely reprocess N95 masks, a Central Sterilization Services (CSS) technician fogs them with ionized Hydrogen Peroxide called SteraMist. It’s an effective and unique hospital-grade disinfectant that appears on four EPA disinfectant lists as Binary Ionization Technology (BIT) solution. This reprocessing method is currently one of three methods described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under its crisis standards of care decontamination recommendations.
The manufacturer of the mist tested it with the COVID-19 (also called SARS-CoV-2) organism applied to N95 respirators, and testing confirmed the mist completely deactivated the virus. It leaves no residue or odor behind as it dries; it simply evaporates into water vapor and oxygen.
We can reprocess each N95 mask four times while keeping the necessary filtration efficiency to ensure they function as needed.
We’re also following a customized logistics process to track the reprocessing and use of each N95 mask.
Each user marks their own mask with a black marker noting their name, date first used, unit name/location. Masks are then put in a breathable brown paper sack and picked up by CSS. Each time the mask is reprocessed, it is logged in software and marked with a blue marker hash mark by the CSS technician. The health care worker will then receive their own mask back in a white paper sack delivered to their unit by CSS, sealed with their name and unit printed on the outside of the sack.
After four blue hash marks, the mask is discarded. It’s also important to note that staff using N95 masks not wear lipstick or makeup, as it contaminates the inside of the mask and disqualifies it for reprocessing. View more on this process here. For coordination of reprocessing needs, page 5392.
This process uses the best of our team’s ingenuity and the world-class resources available on our health care campus. It also keeps our faculty and staff safe and ensures we’re able to provide the care needed for our patients.