WVDHSEM partners with Virginia for PPE decontamination system

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The W.Va. Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has secured access to one of only 25 high-capacity decontamination systems in the U.S., by working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of Virginia.

The Critical Care Decontamination System (CCDS) from Battelle Memorial Institute can decontaminate up to 80,000 N95 masks per day when operating at full capacity and could be up and running as soon as next week.

Gov. Jim Justice heralded this contribution to the COVID-19 response during his Tuesday media briefing, while noting that the federal government will cover the unit’s $1 million cost.

“I commend our W.Va. DHSEM, and especially those at the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety for all they’ve done in making this a reality,” Justice said. “It’s good stuff. A great announcement!”

In early April, FEMA announced that Battelle, a science and technology research nonprofit,  would offer 25 CCDS nationally to decontaminate personal protective equipment for health care and other frontline COVID-19 responders.

With PPE in short supply across the world, acting Director Thom Kirk and Deputy Director Mike Oakley recognized that the CCDS would prove a vital resource in the fight against COVID-19.

Given the $1 million cost, West Virginia faced paying $250,000 under the reimbursement level of West Virginia’s federal disaster declaration for COVID-19. Seeking to conserve taxpayer dollars, DHSEM’s leadership decided to pursue a strategic partnership.

Oakley contacted Virginia officials, who agreed to join in with DHSEM and share that 25 percent cost. The two states agreed that the CCDS would be located in the Blacksburg, Va., area, less than 40 miles from the West Virginia border.

The strength of this arrangement won FEMA’s approval April 24. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has since announced that it would cover the full cost of these units – ensuring access to this critical technology while preserving state funds for other uses.

“Our mission is to keep the citizens of West Virginia safe, and to do that during this pandemic, we had to find a way to assure the protection of our healthcare workers and first responders,” Oakley said. “Partnering with Virginia to secure this equipment not only keeps West Virginia safe, it helps make our entire region more secure.”

The CCDS is scheduled for delivery this week, with an estimated operation start next week. DHSEM is fine-tuning a logistical plan for transporting PPE to and from the site to begin implementation as soon as possible.

“As we fight through this pandemic, I will never forget a comment the governor made when he stated, ‘it is easy to lead when times are easy, but you find out who the real leaders are when times are tough,’” said DMAPS Cabinet Secretary Jeff Sandy. “Without question the state has seen a lot of leaders come forth within the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. From our financial experts, grant experts, regional liaisons, call center representatives and supply staff to the county emergency managers and our federal partners, they have come to lead us through these difficult times. Today’s accomplishment is one of many they have secured during these difficult times.”

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