Pentagon awards $415M contract for machines to disinfect N95 masks

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The Pentagon on Monday announced a $415 million contract for 60 machines that will stretch the use of dwindling N95 masks, allowing the scarce personal protective equipment to be disinfected and reused up to 20 times.

The Defense Department awarded the contract for “Battelle Memorial Institute Critical Care Decontamination Systems (CCDS), that can decontaminate up to 80,000 used N95 respirators per system per day,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement.

The machines — which will all be available by early May for distribution by FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services — together could sterilize up to 4.8 million masks per day and almost 34 million per week, according to Andrews.

The statement added that two systems had already been delivered to New York, and one each to Boston, Chicago, Tacoma, Wash., and Columbus, Ohio.

States are struggling to keep hospitals and medical centers stocked with PPE crucial to fighting the coronavirus outbreak, and the National Guard last week said a shortage of such gear might be hindering its ability to administer coronavirus tests.

The Pentagon has highlighted its efforts to provide N95 masks to the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Defense Secretary Mark Esper in March first announcing that it would give 5 million respirator masks to HHS. Esper later pledged another 5 million from DOD stockpiles. 

And on Saturday, the Pentagon announced a $133 million project to create more than 39 million masks in 90 days under the Defense Production Act. 

Tags Coronavirus Mark Esper

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