Newport News decontamination site tackling PPE shortage in Hampton Roads

Coronavirus

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Hospitals and first responders in Hampton Roads are getting a big boost in the fight against coronavirus.

There’s a new decontamination site in Newport News that’s making it possible for frontline workers to reuse PPE.

The Critical Care Decontamination System, which was sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is tackling the PPE shortage thousands of masks at a time.

“They already have a limited stock on their PPE, so now being able to reuse it is gonna be a big benefit for them,” said Sam Westhoff, the site leader for the Batelle CCDS in Newport News.

There are four decontamination chambers and each can hold 10,000 N95 masks when fully operational. The system uses vapor-phase hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the masks.

“We use chemical indicator cards in the chamber to make sure we’ve reached a 99.9999 [percent] level of reduction and that’s actually more than the FDA requires,” Westhoff said. 

Once that’s done, the masks go through an aeration period. The total turnaround time is between eight and 10 hours. The site can clean up to 80,000 N95 masks in a 24-hour span.

The system is one of three in Virginia and allows the PPE to be used multiple times.

“They can go through that chamber up to 20 times before we have to potentially throw out the masks,” Westhoff said. 

In the beginning, the site will mainly serve hospitals and first responders on the Virginia Peninsula, but hospitals across Hampton Roads are expected to sign on for the service.

It’s a big sigh of relief for those on the front lines of the pandemic. 

“This service is going to need to continue as long as this crisis is here, so we want to make sure that we’re upfront and ahead of the game,” said Todd Cannon, with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. 

The site will officially be up and running on Saturday and is expected to be in Newport News for the next few months. 


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