Say hello to ‘Annie’: Riverside uses UV robot to disinfect N95 masks during the coronavirus

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Riverside Health System is using UV technology to disinfect N95 respirators. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Riverside)
Riverside Health System is using UV technology to disinfect N95 respirators. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Riverside)

A health system on the Peninsula is starting to reuse personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Riverside Health System announced Monday the Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News is now using UV light to disinfect N95 Respirators to conserve PPE.

Two machines named “Annie” will use the UV light to decontaminate items in a room in this case N95 respirators. The University of Nebraska previously used this process.

“There have been several methods that you see floating around on the internet, but through my research, the UV machine was the only one that actually had evidence to support it and that would not only decontaminate the respirator, but the respirator would also maintain its filtration and protection levels,” Christi Archer, Riverside’s system director for Infection Prevention, said in a prepared statement.

Health care workers label their N95 respirators and after they have been used, are placed in a labeled paper bag and shipped in a bin from each hospital unit to the center, according to the news release. After the masks are disinfected, they are shipped back to the same units and health care workers.

Masks without a seal, covered in makeup or “is not a good fit” won’t be reused, Riverside officials said.

“Theoretically we can double our usage by recycling the N95s up to three times,” Archer said. “We’ve also been in conversations with materials scientists at NASA and had discussions about how they might help us extend the life of an N95 respirator even further.”

The medical center will process N95 masks from Riverside Walter Reed Hospital in Gloucester later this week and then expand to other facilities such as hospitals and care centers.

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