If you have a front load washer, you could have the students place their masks in a bin lined with a cloth laundry bag (not mesh) with a string closure. The employee can simply close the bag using the string and launder the entire bag as if it were a pillow. For drying, the employee may need to open the bag and empty it into the dryer. Otherwise, it will take a long time for it to dry. This may not work so well with a top-load washer (unbalanced centrifuge).
It seems to me that you may need to train the students on how to take off their contaminated "street" mask, place it in a receptacle of some sort (personal bag), and then later put it back on without contaminating their face. Otherwise, all the handwashing and mask laundering will be in vain. This is a lesson they could put into practice in other areas of campus like the cafeteria (if that is open for dine-in).
Since this is a new protocol, I recommend you and/or a colleague go thru the motions to ensure you have all of the necessary hand washes/sanitizing steps written into the procedure.
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We are considering purchasing 3 ply, 100% cotton masks for students in organic lab to wear (rather than the surgical masks made from synthetic fibers which are not the best choice around flammable solvents). These masks would be worn only in the lab, so that their own masks (worn TO and FROM lab) wouldn't be potentially contaminated.
These lab masks would be used for CDC/state guidance & requirements for face coverings as infection mitigation during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are NOT for protection against chemical splashes, vapors, etc.
Students entering the lab would wear their own masks, then quickly put on their 'lab mask' which would be clean and placed at their station in a small plastic bag (which would hold their own mask during class), doing their work, then at the end of the day placing the mask in a bin after replacing their own mask. Final step for students would be handwashing before leaving the lab.
We have a washer in the same building, and the idea would be to have a faculty or staff member launder the masks. There is concern if they were handled/laundered immediately at the end of class there would be infectious viral particles on the masks which could infect the handler. Instead, masks in the bin would be washed in the nearby washer the next day. If the person doing the laundry was wearing gloves, a labcoat and a 3-ply mask, are there any thoughts regarding whether handling the masks might produce viral aerosols?
I only know of one article regarding viability of COVID-19 on surfaces and it doesn't address clothing...
Margaret A. Rakas, Ph.D.
Lab Safety & Compliance Director
Clark Science Center
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