WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The federal government is giving the green light to healthcare professionals to safely reuse N95 masks amid shortages of critical medical supplies needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Food and Drug Administration issued the emergency approval for a process to decontaminate and reuse N95 masks.
“To my knowledge it may be the first time it’s been executed with N95 masks in particular,” said Chaun Powell with Premiere Inc—a healthcare group of about 4,000 hospitals and clinics. “But it has been proven to be very effective.”
Powell said the decontamination of masks is necessary because of unprecedented demand for the masks that protect medical workers from the coronavirus.
“We’re on pace right now to use somewhere between 150 and likely up to, coming into April, up to 200 million N95s per year just in the U.S. alone,” he said.
The Defense Department plans to deliver 60 decontamination units to cities around the country by May that will allow up to 4.8 million masks to be decontaminated daily.
“Part of the problem is we don’t have our arms around the supply chain,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO).
Crow and other Democrats say it’s deeply troubling the national stockpile could not provide enough safety equipment in the first place. They’re asking the Health and Human Services inspector general to investigate and find out why.
“There’s an immediate crisis,” said Crow. “This stuff is needed right now.”
Crow and California Congresswoman Katie Porter sponsored a bill that would force the Trump administration to use the Defense Production Act to purchase additional medical equipment and compel U.S. manufacturers to make more of what’s needed.