Columbus, Ohio (May 19, 2020)—As it turns out, smeared makeup and lip balm might be the only things standing in the way of a 20-fold increase in the country’s supply of N95 masks.
Bartosz Koszowski is the site manager at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decontamination operation located inside the Adams County Fairgrounds’ Exhibit Hall. The operation is designed to clean used mask from health-care providers and get them back into service quickly.
Soiling and contamination of the masks is the main thing that will keep them from being reused. And while the contamination can be from dirt or bodily fluids, that’s not the most common.
“One of the main reasons for us to discard them is from soiling from makeup,” Koszowski said. “We actually work with the hospitals to encourage their workers to not wear makeup. People need to feel comfortable wearing the masks, even if they are decontaminated, and soiling makes that difficult. So we have to care not only that they are clean but also about how they look.”
The Adams County operation, one of 45 that FEMA has set up around the country with national logistics consultants Battelle, is just getting started, Koszowski said. The site has been open and in operation since May 4.
It’s a free service for hospitals, medical centers, doctors’ offices and first responders that meet the company’s criteria and fill out the form on the company’s website, battelle.org.
“Right now, the system is still ramping up,” he said. “The health-care providers, they need a little more time to get their procedures in place. But Battelle is working with them to make the process easier.”
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