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In the midst of personal protective equipment shortages across Michigan, Beaumont Health has come up with a quick fix to help protect medical staff during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Beaumont bioengineers have adapted a two-step process to disinfect used N95 masks for those treating COVID-19 patients. 

"With the severe national shortage of masks, this will allow us to protect our staff, conserve resources and reduce medical waste," Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Wilson said in a statement. 

Medical staff at all Beaumont Health sites are assigned labeled masks and will return them at the end of their shifts to be disinfected. The disinfecting process allows for the masks to be reused up to two to three times, Beaumont said. 

The two-step process takes under two hours to disinfect. Used masks will be placed inside an ultraviolet light machine for eight minutes, during the first step of the process.

In the second step, the masks are heated up to 150 to 160 degrees in dry heat warming units for an hour. Any masks that have been visibly contaminated, soiled or is wet can not be disinfected and will be discarded, Beaumont said in a press release. 

"We’re engineers, not doctors or nurses on the front lines, but anything we can do to help our caregivers, such as this, makes us feel proud to be able to help during this extraordinary time," Daniel Zimba, senior director, biomedical and clinical engineering, said in a statement.

Beaumont adapted the disinfecting process based on work by the University of Nebraska and in collaboration with the University of Michigan. 

Beaumont has been using the process across all its eight hospitals for a week. The masks are disinfected in Royal Oak and returned to each hospital. 

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