(WFRV) – Wisconsin has received 230,000 N95 respirator masks from FEMA, providing a boost to efforts to obtain personal protective equipment for distribution in the state. FEMA says it will also be providing Wisconsin with technology to clean N95 masks.
“I would like to thank FEMA for answering our calls for help with obtaining these critical supplies, which are badly needed by folks working on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19,” Gov. Evers said. “Staff at the State Emergency Operations Center has been working tirelessly to acquire PPE, and these masks will be a welcome addition to the supply chain they have worked to establish. However, it only addresses a small portion of the ongoing need in Wisconsin for reliable access to PPE.”
In March, the state made a request to FEMA for assistance with purchasing PPE to help supply workers responding to the pandemic. Gov. Evers says the masks will be used to support state operations and distributed to county and tribal emergency managers who will then allocate them to local care providers and first responders.
“These additional supplies will be distributed to our partners on the local level as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Darrell L. Williams, Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) administrator. “However, it is important to remember these resources are still extremely scarce, so we encourage all critical care providers who need N95 masks to take steps to extend their life when possible.”
FEMA has reached a contract with Battelle, a nonprofit research firm, to access the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System™ (CCDS). According to FEMA, the technology – which is currently being used in other states – will be deployed in Wisconsin. Medical personnel across the state will be able to send their masks to Madison for processing and, once cleaned and sterilized, they will be sent back to the original user.
According to officials, the Battelle CCDS decontaminates masks by killing viruses and bacteria using hydrogen peroxide gas. Masks can be decontaminated up to 20 times without degrading the filtration performance. The system will be able to decontaminate tens of thousands of N95 masks on a daily basis.
“This innovative solution will help dramatically extend the life of N95 masks and address the concerns many health care workers have expressed about the safety of reusing masks,” said Gov. Evers. “This is a critical component of my Badger Bounce Back plan and a key part of getting our state in a position to continue to gain momentum.”
FEMA says it expects the CCDS to arrive in Wisconsin in early May and should be ready to use later in the month. In anticipation of Battelle beginning operations in the state, healthcare workers and first responders are being asked to begin saving their used N95 masks for possible future decontamination.
In addition to the Battelle System, UV decontamination sites are already in place in much of Wisconsin, and with the capacity to service N95 masks and other types of PPE, such as face shields, gowns, and aprons. These efforts are highlighted by facilities currently operating in Brown, Dane, Kenosha, and Sawyer counties.