Face masks being prepared for use by Miamisburg company epluno. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Pentagon spends big on Ohio face mask technology

Pentagon will spend $415M on 60 decontamination units

The Department of Defense is spending big with a Columbus company for medical-grade face mask sterilization systems.

The DoD Defense Logistics Agency, on behalf of the Department of Health & Human Services, has awarded a $415 million contract for 60 Battelle Memorial Institute Critical Care Decontamination Systems, according to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman.

The systems can decontaminate up to 80,000 used N95 respirators per system per day, enabling mask reuse up to 20 times, the department said.

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Earlier this month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine urged President Donald Trump to push the Food and Drug Administration to allow an expanded emergency authorization for the system’s use. The FDA extended the authorization that day.

N95 masks and other protective equipment are decontaminated inside the critical care decontamination system designed by Battelle in Columbus, Ohio on April 7, 2020. Under a sprawling tent in a parking lot near the small town of West Jefferson, employees of Battelle, a nonprofit research and development firm, have spent the recent weeks decontaminating over 30,000 used face masks for doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. (Brian Kaiser/The New York Times)
Photo: BRIAN KAISER/NYT

Spearheaded by the Department’s Joint Acquisition Task Force, six units have already been delivered to locations including two to New York, and one each to Columbus, Ohio, Boston, Chicago and Tacoma, providing the ability to sterilize 3.4 million masks a week, reducing the need for new masks by the same number, the department said in a release late Monday.

All 60 systems will be available by early May for prioritization and distribution by FEMA and Health and Human Services.

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“Once all are delivered, these 60 units will allow 4.8 million masks to be sterilized per day, almost 34 million per week,” the Pentagon said.

‘I remain extremely proud of the selfless efforts of Department of Defense personnel who continue to do everything they can to help provide medical masks, test kits, medicine and meals to support America’s military, medical, emergency services and law enforcement professionals who are on the front lines and need them most,’ said Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord.

This procurement includes a service contract to cover operations and maintenance.”

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