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Gov. Baker: Somerville Mask Decontamination Site Could Clean 80,000 Masks A Day

BOSTON (CBS) -- Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone toured a Battelle N95 mask decontamination site Saturday. Baker said once the site is fully functional, it will be a help to health care workers as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

"As we continue to take measures to plan for the surge, we continue to chase more personal protective equipment, and we're working as hard as we can to make sure we have enough equipment to keep all frontline health care workers safe while still being able to support their patients. This remains one of the biggest challenges, but solutions like the one we're visiting here today will help us aggressively use every means necessary to make sure people have the gear they need," Baker said.

The Battelle site will be able to sterilize up to 80,095 masks per day.

It will be free of charge for medical workers and first responders, thanks to a grant. "The federal government's grant isn't going to last forever but it's going last for a while and that's a good thing," Bake said. "Eventually, the way this works is you basically pay to have your gear decontaminated, the price you pay to have your gear decontaminated in most cases is going to be less than it would cost you to actually go buy new gear. So, for all intents and purposes, it's an expense that would be incurred by healthcare providers anyway."

The site will run 24 hours a day. The treatment takes about four hours and then the masks are shipped back to where they came from. The cleaning leaves the mask as clean as it would be if it was just purchased.

"I'm incredibly grateful for the support we've received from Mayor Curtatone and the city of Somerville, who moved heaven and earth under his emergency powers to team up with Battelle and Partners and stand up this facility," said Baker. "This machine will keep more masks in use, that will sustain our personal protective equipment supply here in Massachusetts."

Gov. Charlie Baker speaks outside of the mask decontamination site in Somerville on Saturday (WBZ-TV)

The governor also announced a number of updates.

An unemployment application in Spanish was also launched Saturday. "It will ensure Spanish speaking residents who are struggling with the economic disruption associated with this virus can access unemployment services and benefits. We look forward to further improving our multilingual services for all residents of the Commonwealth," Baker said.

COVID-19 text alerts from the state became available in Spanish on Friday. The 211 phone line about coronavirus is already available in over 150 languages and information on the government's website is available in 13 languages.

Grocery store workers can now be tested for coronavirus at the Gillette Stadium and the Big E fairgrounds test sites. Workers do not need to be symptomatic in order to be tested.

Another 3,000 more National Guard personnel have been activated, bringing the state's total to 5,000. They "may be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing, and related duties."

Massachusetts has received 200 ventilators from the federal government and 200 more are expected to be here soon, Baker said.

As of Friday, there were 20,974 cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts and 599 deaths. A total of 102,372 people have been tested.

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