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April 3, 2020

MSU Extension, Kellogg Center providing support for health care workers

Michigan State University is using specialized equipment to clean and decontaminate used N95 masks and opening the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center to front-line health workers and first responders combatting the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Both steps are part of the university’s expanded efforts to respond to the pandemic by supporting local health care workers and first responders.

Decontamination of N95 masks
The MSU Extension Food Processing Innovation Center is partnering with Sparrow Health System on a new method to reuse N95 masks. MSU is the first state university to create such a partnership to extend the life of protective masks that typically see just one use.

“The need for personal protection equipment is greatly outweighing the demand. We saw this as a call to action for a university with such a depth and breadth of ability to innovate and a true sense of urgency around doing all we can to support and protect the wonderful people of our state,” said Norman J. Beauchamp Jr., executive vice president for health sciences at MSU. “Turning our efforts toward decontaminating N95 masks is amongst the most significant thing we can do to ensure the health and safety of medical workers, preserving the ability to respond to those needing care.”

Staff at the center retooled their equipment to heat the masks in such a way it kills viruses and bacteria. The masks are then sealed in individual bags and left to further decontaminate for three days before being returned. A test run confirmed the process was successful before any masks were given to health care workers.

"Sparrow is very pleased with the resources and speed with which MSU was able to develop the process,” said Jeff Kay, chief safety officer for the Sparrow Health System. “This will help Sparrow move forward with an adequate supply of respirators, allowing caregivers to continue to provide safe, quality care to our patients."

MSU Extension Director Jeff Dwyer says this is just the beginning. Staff are developing protocols that can be replicated by others who have commercial-scale spiral ovens. In addition, they are using FDA-approved formulas to create sanitizer that can be used on non-surgical hard surfaces in medical facilities.

“We are all in this outbreak response together – university, state, country, world,” Dwyer added. “This is just another way Spartans are stepping up to make a difference.”

Rooms for health care workers and first responders
“Our health care workers and first responders are on the front lines of the fight against this outbreak. They are doing amazing work, but sometimes it means they are not able to go home,” said Vennie Gore, vice president for MSU Auxiliary Enterprises. “We are offering a safe, clean place for them to rest and recuperate while also keeping our staff healthy and safe.”

Health care workers from McLaren Health Care System and Sparrow Health System, as well as first responders can stay at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at a discounted rate. Guests will be asked to comply with the Ingham County Health Department’s emergency order for health screenings through their employer. The hotel is closed to all other guests.

To limit direct interactions between staff and guests, new procedures are in place for contactless check in/out processes and linen exchanges. Cleaning supplies are available to guests, should they wish to go beyond the enhanced cleaning by staff. Once vacated, rooms will be sanitized and left undisturbed for a minimum of 24 hours.

“We are constantly looking at ways university resources, particularly those not in active use right now, can be directed toward supporting the state’s response,” Gore added.

By: Dan Olsen