‘Lives are literally at stake’: DeWine makes another appeal for FDA approval of mask sterilization technology

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OHIO (WJW) — Gov. Mike DeWine Sunday held an unexpected press conference to make another appeal to the FDA for full approval of a new system that would allow the sterilization of up to 160,000 surgical masks per day.

The system was developed by Columbus-based private research lab Battelle, and DeWine said it would greatly help with the shortfall of N95 surgical masks in the state and country in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

DeWine said he was told Wednesday the FDA would have a solution by the end of the week. He learned early Sunday it was only partially approved.

“This won’t solve every single problem, but it is going to help here in Ohio and across this country,” DeWine said. “I’m again making the appeal to the FDA that we need this technology at full capacity.”

DeWine also said he spoke with President Donald Trump Sunday, and was told he would “take action.” DeWine said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn assured him “this would be done today.”

Lou Von Thaer, Battelle president and CEO, spoke at the press conference, saying “we’ve proven this technology.” He said the system can clean and reuse masks up to 20 times.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Ohio as of Sunday was at 1,653 with 29 deaths.

Read our blog for more from the press conference:


  • Gov. DeWine: Medical personnel are having to wear masks more than once. There is a huge shortfall in supply of N95 masks.
  • DeWine: We’re doing everything we can to get masks in Ohio for those who need them.
  • DeWine: Ohio based Battelle Lab has made contributions to bar codes, cruise control, etc. They’ve now developed a machine with the capability to sterilize 80K used masks a day. There are two machines in Ohio.
  • DeWine: We’ve been waiting for FDA approval. This morning, the state was notified it got only partial approval. DeWine called Trump, who said he would “take action.”
  • DeWine: This when we get it, won’t solve every problem. But it is going to help. In Ohio and across the country.
  • DeWine: Several minutes ago, talked directly with FDA commissioner. Said it would be cleared up today and that we will likely get what we want.
  • DeWine: We’re not there yet. But I’m grateful for the call. I’m hopeful.
  • DeWine: We’re holding this press conference today to get everyone’s attention. “I got sick of waiting. We owe this to Ohioans, we owe this to people across the country.”
  • Lt. Gov. Husted: “This needs to be approved today.”
  • DeWine: “Lives are literally at stake. That’s why I called the president.”
  • DeWine: “I expect a decision today. I’m an impatient guy, but lives are literally at stake. We want everyone in the country to understand the importance of this. It’s why I called the President. FDA commissioner assured me this would be done today. I’m cautiously optimistic.”
  • Lew Von Thaer, of Battelle Lab: We’ve proven this technology and we’ve built a system that can clean and reuse masks up to 20 times.
  • Von Thaer: We’re hopeful with approvals we get today we will have capacity to hit 80,000 sanitized masks per machine per day.
  • Husted: We’re pushing for speed, they’re (FDA) pushing for safety.
  • DeWine: I’ve been assured…this will in fact happen today.

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