Laurie Hommema had just finished dinner with her daughters, Emmy, 9, and Clara, 7, at their home in Columbus, Ohio. Laurie, a family physician who oversees well-being for the OhioHealth hospital network, was worried about the dwindling supply of N95 masks and told her husband that she wouldn't have a mask when the coronavirus surge hit.
That's when her husband Kevin, an engineer at Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit research organization, offered up a simple solution: "Why don't you just clean them up and reuse them?"
In normal circumstances, N95 masks are thrown out after a single use. But Kevin remembered a study his colleagues at Battelle had conducted five years earlier showing that masks could be decontaminated and reused in an emergency.
"It seemed like a slam dunk to me," Kevin said.