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Tags: coronavirus task force masks | mask cleaning machines

Report: US Paying Huge Premium for Mask-Cleaning Machines That Don't Work

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(Alex Brandon/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 20 May 2020 12:47 PM EDT

The White House coronavirus task force’s plan to buy 60 mask-cleaning machines that would allow protective masks to be reused up to 20 times is costing way more than expected and not working, NBC News reports.

On April 3, the task force struck a deal to buy a defense company’s new cleaning machine that would allow masks to be reworn up to 20 times. The 60 machines would cost $60 million.

But the cost has risen to $413 million, according to notes from a task force meeting obtained by NBC. 

By May 1, the Pentagon estimated the machines could cost as much as $600 million, in an agreement with the company Battelle Memorial Institute. 

And the expensive machines don’t work, according to scientists and nurses, who say the masks begin to fall apart and change shape after they are put through the system two or three times. 

Battelle Memorial Institute said its own testing has confirmed masks only hold up for about four cleaning cycles. The machines use vapor phase hydrogen peroxide to disinfect masks.

Nurses told NBC they are afraid they are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 if they use the recycled masks. 

“It’s a fairy tale,” said one nurse who works at a Connecticut hospital using the Battelle decontamination system. “It’s being done because we don’t have the policies in place to do what needs to be done, and people are going to be hurt because of it.”

Nurses told NBC the cleaning machines were a shortcut to avoid procuring more protective equipment. 

“They keep saying these recycled masks are still safe after all these cycles, but we don’t know that,” said a nurse in Pennsylvania using the mask-cleaner. “What we do know is that there are not enough masks for medical workers and there are very real consequences if we get sick.”

Battelle officials told NBC they stand by a 2016 study, which used mannequins to see if masks lost their fit or were permeated by particles after 20 uses. 

But since the outbreak, the company said it has only verified the purity of masks for four uses in field testing at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“To date, Battelle has received and tested samples representative of four actual use cycles from MassGen,” Will Richter, Battelle’s principal research scientist, said. “The goal of this assessment is to determine the impact of actual wear.”

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Newsfront
The White House coronavirus task force’s plan to buy 60 mask-cleaning machines that would allow protective masks to be reused up to 20 times is costing way more than expected and not working, NBC News reports.
coronavirus task force masks, mask cleaning machines
396
2020-47-20
Wednesday, 20 May 2020 12:47 PM
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