COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Governor Mike DeWine announced late Sunday night that the Food and Drug Administration has given Battelle full approval to sterilize N95 masks.
The Ohio company can now sanitize 160,000 masks per day and return them to health care professionals for reuse.
At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Governor DeWine said he spoke by phone earlier in the day with both the FDA commissioner and President Trump about getting approval without a limit on mask sterilization.
“Mike DeWine, the great governor of Ohio, called me; they have a company that is in the final process of getting approval for the sterilization of masks,” Trump said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden Sunday evening.
DeWine emphasized a message of urgency regarding FDA approval without limits on the number of masks.
“I expected a decision before today,” DeWine said. “I’m kind of an impatient guy, but lives are literally at stake.”
Right now, Ohio’s health care workers and first responders don’t have enough N95 masks to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, DeWine said.
Each machine from Battelle can sterilize up to 80,000 masks a day, according to officials.
Ohio has two machines, and several others are in the process of being sent to cities across the country, including New York, Seattle and Washington D.C., DeWine said.
The FDA has now approved the technology without a daily limit on the number of masks that can be sterilized.
“We can’t tip-toe toward the solution,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “We have to run at full speed. FDA approval gives us the ability to run at full speed.”
According to Battelle officials, with their machines, N95 masks can be cleaned up to 20 times without compromising the integrity of the mask.
Sarah Hackenbracht, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, told 2 NEWS she considers the program a “great asset” to hospitals, which are working to conserve their limited supply of protective equipment.
“The facility where they’re going to be deploying this technology first is actually located in West Jefferson,” Hackenbracht said. “So that is not far from many of our Dayton region hospitals.”
At Sunday’s news conference, officials said Battelle could start the process of cleaning masks as soon as Monday.
Workers can pick up, clean and send back masks to Ohio health care facilities within a day, according to Battelle.