California plans to decontaminate 80,000 masks a day for health workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Key Points
  • California has procured a system from defense company Battelle that can decontaminate tens of thousands of used N95s per day, making them safe for re-use by health workers.
  • The system, which uses hydrogen peroxide, allows a single mask to be used 20 times instead of just once.
3M N95 particulate filtering face mask are seen at a store in East Palo Alto, California, United States on January 26, 2020.
Yichuan Cao | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Mark S. Ghilarducci, Director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services said at a Wednesday conference that California has been working closely with FEMA to secure devices and personal protective equipment for front line health workers.

For example, California is procuring a system from Ohio-based technology research organization Battelle, which should allow it to decontaminate some 80,000 used medical-grade N95 masks per day, making them essentially as good as new. The system, which should arrive to California on Thursday, will help address mask shortages for health workers, first responders and other essential workers in the state.

Battelle's CCDS Critical Care Decontamination System works by exposing used masks to vapor phase hydrogen peroxide, which is strong enough at a certain concentration to kill the novel coronavirus (and other contaminants) within 2.5 hours, according to the company's website. A medical grade N95 mask can be used 20 times over instead of just once if cleaned in this system.

On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom encouraged suppliers of PPE and medical equipment, including masks, ventilators and more, to list all the resources that they have to sell or donate, on a state-run site called

California companies are ramping up efforts to fight COVID-19. Cupertino-based Apple has committed to making 1 million face shields, and has already donated 20 million N95 masks to government organizations and hospitals. Palo Alto-based Tesla has promised to manufacture ventilators, and has purchased and donated BiPAPs and invasive ventilators to hospitals around the U.S.

But it's not just large companies the governor appealed to -- myriad independent groups of "makers" have also cropped up, in and beyond California, to procure and manufacture equipment to treat COVID-19 patients and curb the spread of the virus. 

The CDC now recommends people wear masks outdoors