June 15, 2020

Implementation of an elastomeric mask program as a strategy to eliminate N95 use, resterilization

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

Reusable elastomeric masks provide a more durable, less costly, longer term option than N95 masks for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study finds.

Within 1 month of implementing the elastomeric mask program at the Allegheny Health Network’s nine-hospital system in Pennsylvania and Western New York, the system was able to reduce the number of N95s needed by 95%. In addition, the cost was 10 times less per month than purchasing and resterilizing N95s, and the cost benefit increases the longer they are needed.


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Elastomeric masks, which are often used in industry and construction, resemble gas masks and are made of a tight-fitting, flexible, rubber-like material that can adjust to nearly all individuals’ faces and can withstand multiple cleanings. The mask holds a P100-rated cartridge filter, which filters out almost 100% of airborne particles. Filters are replaced monthly.

Until Allegheny Health could purchase enough elastomeric masks for all healthcare providers who needed them, they were shared with those on other shifts, and they were decontaminated between shifts using vaporized hydrogen peroxide. As more masks became available, providers kept their own masks and disinfected them themselves according to manufacturer’s guidelines.

After a month of use, none of the providers wearing an elastomeric mask chose to go back to wearing N95s.

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