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KUNC is here to keep you up-to-date on the news about COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — Colorado's response to its spread in our state and its impact on Coloradans.

Can Health Care Workers Sterilize And Reuse N95 Masks?

Jonathan J. Castellon

The Mountain West News Bureau is taking questions from listeners across the region about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a question, email us at mountainwestnewsbureau@gmail.com or give us a call at 208-352-2079 and leave us a message. This service is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

Normally, hospital workers would throw away an N95 face mask after treating a patient. But with the mask shortage, that's not always happening. Dee Downing in Utah wondered if a nurse could spray their own masks with isopropyl alcohol and "let it dry and then, you know, be good to go the next day."

I posed this question to Dr. May Chu, a clinical professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. She says you should never reuse a mask after helping with procedures like intubating a COVID-19 patient, even if it's been sterilized using specialized medical equipment.

"It may not be smart to reuse that mask that's been heavily dosed by contamination," she says.

For masks that have not been contaminated with the COVID-19 virus, Chu says do-it-yourself sterilization could work. But just spraying the outside with alcohol might not reach the nooks and crannies in the N95 mask.

Find the CDC's guidelines for extended use and limited reuse of N95 masks here.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the .

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit .

Amanda Peacher is an Arthur F. Burns fellow reporting and producing in Berlin in 2013. Amanda is from Portland, Oregon, where she works as the public insight journalist for Oregon Public Broadcasting. She produces radio and online stories, data visualizations, multimedia projects, and facilitates community engagement opportunities for OPB's newsroom.
Amanda Peacher
Amanda Peacher works for the Mountain West News Bureau out of Boise State Public Radio. She's an Idaho native who returned home after a decade of living and reporting in Oregon. She's an award-winning reporter with a background in community engagement and investigative journalism.
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