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Today Show: Young Couple Creates New System to Clean and Reuse N95 Masks

Today Show 4.14.20_1

One of the biggest challenges in the fight against COVID-19 has been the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages for frontline healthcare workers. But that's started to change once Laurie Hommema, MD, OhioHealth medical director of provider and associate well-being, and her husband, Kevin, came up with a life-saving idea at the dining room table one night.

“I was in a meeting that day and just mentioned that I was afraid we were going to run out of N95 masks,” Dr. Hommema said in an interview with reporter Stephanie Gosk on the NBC's Today Show. “I think I said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to have a mask.’”

That’s when Kevin, an engineer at Battelle, asked her a simple question: “Why don’t you just clean them up?”

From there, the idea took off. Battelle, a non-profit research group that frequently tests for dangerous pathogens, began testing on the masks the following week.

The process includes a hydrogen peroxide vapor that decontaminates the N95 masks, which takes a little over two hours. The masks can then be reused up to 20 more times.

So far, the decontamination systems are spreading across Ohio, Washington and New York, with more scheduled to be delivered around the country.

“I still don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet,” said Dr. Hommema. “It’s overwhelming to think that it started with an after-dinner conversation, drawing it out on a piece of paper and seeing if it was feasible.”