3 Virginia sites to get decontamination systems for protective gear

Virginia is set to receive three decontamination systems that can collectively sterilize up to 240,000 units of personal protective equipment each day during the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Ralph Northam said in a news release Saturday that the decontamination systems will become operational in Blacksburg, Newport News and Chesterfield County within the next week.

The units were approved for Virginia by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Northam said the technology will help address the national shortage of critical personal protective equipment to help protect healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic.

The scarce N95 respirator masks can sustain 20 decontamination cycles without suffering in their performance, the release said.

For the first six months, the program will be funded by FEMA.

One other decontamination system, produced by Battelle, is being shared by health care systems in the D.C. area. The company is hiring staff to work on decontaminating PPE, and is also asking health care administrators who have equipment that needs to be cleaned to request service via the Battelle website. The decontamination system uses hydrogen peroxide vapor to clean the masks.

The system based in Blacksburg, on the Virginia Tech campus, will be available for Virginia and West Virginia.

Northam said the stable supply of PPE is important for Virginia to move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the system will “extend the life of critical PPE like N95 masks, giving our medical facilities and first responders greater access to much-needed supplies and helping the Commonwealth manage our resources amid a nationwide shortage.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for USATODAY.com, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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