COLUMBUS, Ohio (WYSX/WTTE) – Late into Sunday evening, weeks after the onset of a global COVID-19 pandemic, Columbus-based Battelle received federal approval to begin disinfecting the hospital masks used in treatment of coronavirus patients.
"I want to thank President Trump for his leadership and Dr. Hahn of the FDA for approving the use of this life-saving technology that Battelle has developed," said Governor Mike DeWine. "This will not only help Ohio's healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, but Battelle will also be helping health care workers in hot spots throughout the country including New York and Washington state."|
Battelle recently developed a machine called the "Critical Care Decontamination System," which uses pressure and vaporized hydrogen peroxide to disinfect N95 respirator masks, according to the company's CEO Lewis Von Thaer.
The masks are currently in short supply in Ohio and worldwide, along with a handful of other personal protective items used by doctors and nurses.
Battelle's machine, built out of empty metal shipping containers, can clean 80,000 of the N95 masks per day and make them safe for re-use as many as 20 times, according to the company. However, early Sunday morning the federal Food and Drug Administration severely limited the capacity of the machines to do that job.
According to a morning news release from Governor DeWine, the FDA limited Battelle to cleansing just 10,000 masks per day — as well as limiting operations of the machine to only the state of Ohio. Battelle has developed or shipped machines already for Seattle, New York City and Washington, D.C.
"Needless to say, I was quite angry. I picked up the phone and called President Trump," said DeWine, whose administration has been pushing for the approval of Battelle's machine for at least several days.
After their phone call, Trump tweeted his support on Sunday.
"Hope the FDA can approve Mask Sterilization equipment ASAP. As per Governor @MikeDeWine, there is a company in Ohio, @Battelle, which has equipment that can sterilize masks quickly," the President tweeted. "Highly recommended...FDA must move quickly!"
DeWine said in an unplanned Sunday news conference that he had also spoken with FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, and was assured that the full approval of Battelle's CCDS machine would come by Sunday night.
"It hasn't happened yet, but I'm hopeful," DeWine said on Sunday. "We can clean 80,000 of these every single day. Free us, let us go do it!"
ABC 6/FOX 28 will continue to follow this developing story.