COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Sunday during his daily press conference, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine made yet another plea to the Food and Drug Administration to approve the machine that could sanitize much-needed N-95 respirator masks that are critical now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic at hand.
DeWine talked to Lewis Von Thaer—the head of Battelle Memorial Institute, the company that created the sanitizer systems—around 8 a.m. Sunday and was informed that they had not been cleared by the FDA to sanitize 80,000 masks a day. The FDA had only approved technology that sanitizes 10,000 masks a day.
There are currently two machines that Battelle has already developed and are waiting for FDA approval. The two machines would allow the state of Ohio to sterilize 160,000 masks per day.
The news that the technology had not been approved upset DeWine, who then called President Donald Trump. Trump was adamant about helping, DeWine said.
I called the @realDonaldTrump this morning. The President called me back. I explained to him what is happening. We had a good conversation. He understands that we want to protect our first responders/hospital employees. He was great. He said "I'm moving. I'll get this done."— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 29, 2020
The new technology uses a machine that cleans the masks with a concentrated hydrogen peroxide vapor for several hours. It decontaminates the masks for viruses and bugs even stronger than COVID-19. The masks get loaded into the containers, decontaminated and sent back to healthcare workers around the state and around the country, according to Von Thaer.
Just before the press conference began, DeWine talked to the FDA and he said the issue with the approval should be cleared up by the end of the day Sunday, DeWine said hopefully. Since the machines are ready to go, pending the approval, the technology to sanitize up to 160,000 masks a day would be able to be utilized immediately.
I expect a decision today. I'm an impatient guy, but lives are literally at stake. We want everyone in the country to understand the importance of this. It's why I called the President. The @US_FDA commissioner assured me this would be done today. I'm cautiously optimistic.— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) March 29, 2020
The governor stressed the importance of the technology that can be used to help here in Ohio, and across the entire country.
“This is help on the way if we could just get it cleared,” DeWine said.
Right now the technology can only sanitize N-95 face masks, but the tech company is working on creating processes to sanitize other personal protective equipment and medical supplies including respirators and ventilators, Von Thaer said.
In the meantime, the state is working to find more PPE suppliers and resources, including accepting donations. If you have PPE and would like to donate, click here to learn more.
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