Illinois Acquires System to Decontaminate N95 Masks, Pritzker Says

New statewide totals: 50,355 cases, 2,215 deaths

Much has been said of the constant — and often competitive — search for vital personal protective equipment across the city and state. And with high demand and short supply, securing enough of the stuff has been a challenge.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has frequently highlighted those challenges in his daily press briefings, but on Wednesday he laid out a new plan to help the state stretch its stockpile a little further.

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According to Pritzker, a hydrogen peroxide-based system recently acquired by the state can decontaminate N95 masks in about 24 hours. Even better, it’s “entirely free,” he said.

The Battelle CCDS Critical Care Decontamination System currently deployed in Waukegan allows for each mask to be “decontaminated up to 20 times without experiencing any degradation of filter performance,” Pritzker said.

The Battelle system can decontaminate thousands of masks at once using high concentration, vapor phase hydrogen peroxide, according to a pamphlet about the system. The masks are exposed to the chemical for hours at a level deemed validated to decontaminate biological contaminants, including COVID-19.

“I can’t overstate how important this in-state resource is to our ability to help our hospitals, our health care workers, our law enforcement and front-line workers,” Pritzker said. “I highly encourage all health care (systems) from hospitals to long-term care facilities, to take advantage of this. … It’s fast and free, and it’ll help us help you.”

Interested facilities can contact the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, or find more information online.

During his press briefing Wednesday, Pritzker also highlighted the state’s efforts to distribute and acquire personal protective equipment. Nearly 20 million items have been distributed throughout Illinois’s 102 counties, including 10.5 million surgical masks, 1.8 million N95 masks, 173,000 gowns, 7.7 million gloves and 440,00 face shields, according to Pritzker.

On Monday, the state received a shipment of gear from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including 300,000 N95 masks, 500,000 KN95 masks and 1.1 million gloves, according to Pritzker, who said he also submitted a critical needs request to FEMA for 900,000 gowns. The governor said he personally spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about the importance of those gowns.

In the coming days and weeks, the state expects to receive orders its placed with suppliers, including an additional 17 million N95 masks and KN95 masks, 21 million surgical and general medical masks, 11 million gowns and coveralls, 14 million gloves and 7 million face shields and goggles, according to Pritzker.

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]

Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources

Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including: 

—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick

Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue

If you think you have COVID-19:

Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.

Additional resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illinois’ COVID-19 website
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link

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