VeriMask: Facilitating Decontamination of N95 Masks in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Challenges, Lessons Learned, and Safeguarding the Future

Yan Long, Alexander Curtiss, Sara Rampazzi, Josiah Hester, Kevin Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The US CDC has recognized moist-heat as one of the most effective and accessible methods of decontaminating N95 masks for reuse in response to the persistent N95 mask shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is challenging to reliably deploy this technique in healthcare settings due to a lack of smart technologies capable of ensuring proper decontamination conditions of hundreds of masks simultaneously. To tackle these challenges, we developed an open-source wireless sensor platform-VeriMask1-that facilitates per-mask verification of the moist-heat decontamination process. VeriMask is capable of monitoring hundreds of masks simultaneously in commercially available heating systems and provides a novel throughput-maximization functionality to help operators optimize the decontamination settings. We evaluate VeriMask in laboratory and real-scenario clinical settings and find that it effectively detects decontamination failures and operator errors in multiple settings and increases the mask decontamination throughput. Our easy-to-use, low-power, low-cost, scalable platform integrates with existing hospital protocols and equipment, and can be broadly deployed in under-resourced facilities to protect front-line healthcare workers by lowering their risk of infection from reused N95 masks. We also memorialize the design challenges, guidelines, and lessons learned from developing and deploying VeriMask during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our hope is that by reflecting and reporting on this design experience, technologists and front-line health workers will be better prepared to collaborate for future pandemics, regarding mask decontamination, but also other forms of crisis tech.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3478105
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies
Volume5
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • N95 Masks Decontamination
  • Wireless Sensor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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