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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Corporation for Public Broadcasting.