- On May 4, 2020
Wake County and Wake County Public Schools are working together to implement a plan to reuse N95 masks – an important piece of personal protective equipment that is in limited supply for healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With schools closed, middle and high school science labs are vacant, and the cabinets teachers and students typically use to sterilize safety goggles with ultraviolet light are available to help with the coronavirus response.
WCPSS is lending the cabinets from 42 classrooms to Wake County. The county will use the cabinets to disinfect existing N95 masks, so staff can reuse them.
“This team effort is vital to helping ensure our first responders and healthcare workers have enough N95 masks to protect them from contracting COVID-19,” said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Ford. “Because of the national shortage of PPE, new masks can be hard to come by. We’re grateful to the school system for lending us these UV cabinets, so we can extend the longevity of our important and scarce resources.”
WCPSS crews have removed 42 sanitizing cabinets from school science labs. Wake County crews picked them up and installed them at various locations throughout the county last week. The sites include:
- 34 units at Wake County EMS facilities;
- 4 units at Raleigh Fire Department locations; and
- 4 units at the Wake County Emergency Services Education Center.
“Just as our UV cabinets make goggles safe for reuse for our students, they have the potential to make thousands of N95 masks safe for reuse for county staff on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response,” said Keith Sutton, chair of the Wake County Board of Education. “When the need to use the cabinets ends, Wake County will clean them and re-install them in our science labs.”
N95 masks get their name from their ability to filter out 95% of particles in the air and keep the wearer from breathing them in. Healthcare workers and first responders must be fitted for their N95 masks, and masks cannot be shared.
Using the germicidal cabinets, the masks will be treated with ultraviolet light for 15 minutes, which has been shown to kill more than 99% of contaminants on surfaces, including COVID-19.
Because repeated treatments degrade the N95 masks, which are made of polyurethane, polypropylene and polyester, the devices will be sanitized no more than five times. Staff will mark their masks with their names and use tick marks to indicate how many times they have been sterilized.
Staff will discard any masks that show signs of significant wear, such as rips, tears, stretched-out elastic, and contamination with blood or other pollutants.
Wake County has made it easy for you to stay updated on the latest information about COVID-19.
You can visit our COVID-19 webpage, which has a set of frequently asked questions to educate residents in English and in Spanish, a list of COVID-19-related closures and service changes, as well as an email address and phone number that people can use to ask personal health-related questions about COVID-19.
The county is also sharing important information on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.