MASON CITY — The Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors this week heard a proposal by the county’s emergency management agency on possibly purchasing a piece of equipment that would disinfect surgical masks used by front-line long-term care and emergency medical personnel in the area.
Brice Ausenhus says it’s still tough to obtain the facemasks and using what’s called the “SterraMist” would allow those masks to be safely used multiple times. He says the University of Iowa has spent two years testing SterraMist and approving its use. “The SterraMist is a vaporized, hydrogen peroxide gas that’s emitted off a sprayer. What it does is it saturates to a certain extent these masks to kill the coronavirus, SARS, MRSA, and other antibodies in the masks.”
Ausenus says when the masks are handed out, a person would get two paper bags, putting a dirty mask in one of the bags and writing their name on the bag and the mask. The bags would then be taken to a cleaning area where it would be cleaned, tallied with how many times it has been cleaned, and then returned. “My hope is that when we talk with the long-term care facilities and EMS is that the offices and stations will issue staff two masks. As you are using one, we are cleaning the second one, and continue the transfer of the two.”
Ausenhus says as it stands currently, each $6 mask has to be discarded after one use. “As it stands right now, if I put this on you today, I have to throw it away. The University of Iowa…they are saying seven cleanings. I’m a little bit more hesitant until we get used to the process, I’m going to say five or six. Will that span these out a month, a month-and-a-half? Yes. It also depends on who is using it and how much of an exposure they’ve had to the contagion.”
The unit and initial amount of supplies would cost about $26,000. Ausenhus says state funding for the equipment is possible if it’s used on a regional scale. The supervisors asked Ausenhus to continue exploring the regional option with the proposal likely to come back before them in the near future.