Hong Kong scientists race to determine if they can disinfect and reuse respirators, masks

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As Hong Kong struggles with a shortage of supplies amid coronavirus, scientists there are studying whether they can disinfect and reuse N95 respirators worn by medical professionals, as well as standard face masks for the general public, one of the city's top infectious disease experts said.

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung from the University of Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post that both options are being considered in a city of more than 7.4 million people.

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Yuen said scientists were doing experiments on whether N95 respirators could be disinfected with hydrogen peroxide vapor and reused.

So far, so good.

"These N95 respirator masks can be used many times afterwards," Yuen said. "We of course label all these masks, make sure that they are sent to the same person again after disinfection."

Hong Kong isn't the only one putting a priority on reusing masks.

Struggling with its own supply shortage, late last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized an Ohio-based company to disinfect N95 masks. The move came following significant pressure from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. The FDA, citing coronavirus, rewrote the rules to allow Battelle technology to to sterilize protective masks worn by health care workers treating coronavirus victims. The FDA said upgrading its emergency use authorization from partial to full was "appropriate to protect the public health or safety."

Ohio's Lt. Gov. Jon Husted tweeted, "This Ohio-driven solution has the potential to save lives now and in the future across the United States."

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As of Friday morning, there are 1,030,628 cases of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world, resulting in 54,137 deaths. In the United States, there are 245,573 confirmed cases and 6,058 deaths linked to COVID-19.