Ohio governor presses for mask sterilization OK from feds


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s governor said Sunday he expects federal regulators to soon clear the way for wide use of a Columbus-based company’s services to sterilize N95 masks.

Battelle, a private research lab, says its process, which involves the use of hydrogen peroxide under pressure, can refurbish a single mask up to 20 times before the mask has to be discarded. Shortages of the N95 masks have occurred around the country, and Gov. Mike DeWine said that is also true among Ohio’s health care workers.

DeWine said it was reckless that the number of masks Battelle is authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sterilize every day hasn’t already increased from 10,000.

The company says it can handle far more masks and has been working to set up sterilization systems in other parts of the country.

DeWine, a Republican, said he received assurances Sunday from President Donald Trump and the Food and Drug Administration commissioner that the approval would be handled quickly.

A Battelle official said the company has been setting up logistical details with Ohio hospitals and is poised to begin collecting and cleaning masks from around the state in the coming days.

One of Battelle’s systems is in place in Long Island, New York, another is on its way to New York and others could soon be sent to Seattle, Chicago and Washington, D.C., said Battelle chief executive Lewis Von Thaer, who appeared with DeWine by video.

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VIRUS SPREAD BY THE NUMBERS

DeWine said Sunday that Ohio now has more than 1,600 confirmed cases and 29 deaths, up by four deaths from the day before.

He said there have been more than 100 people admitted for treatment in Ohio hospitals’ intensive care units.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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