The institution has transformed Professor John Volckens' engineering lab, which normally focuses on air quality and pollution, into an official testing site for surgical masks and respirators that will be distributed throughout Colorado.

According to a press release from CSU, the university will give recommendations to state officials regarding what kinds of equipment should be distributed.

Their team is most heavily focused on N95 respirators.

Governor Jared Polis deemed CSU's Center for Energy Development and Health as Colorado's dedicated lab for testing the safety of protective medical gear on March 25.

The only federal lab that regularly performs these types of tests is in Pennsylvania, meaning that the university is now an emergency substitute for standard federal testing.

"Our lab has the facilities and engineering expertise to perform those tests," said Volckens in the release. "We can essentially mimic the stringent requirements put forth in the federal protocol."

The federal protocol is strict. A mask cannot be designated as N95 unless it includes 95% or higher filtration efficiency for particles, such as those carrying COVID-19, that would normally be inhaled without the mask.

Evaluating these masks is critical, as state officials expect that up to 100,000 masks per day will be needed for Colorado's healthcare workers in the coming months.

CSU researchers have designed the tests to emulate worst-case scenarios, placing the N95 products in real working conditions with high dust that can transmit viral particles.

While the tests are not easy to perform, the researchers are committed to conducting as many as they need to.

"We don't know how long this will go on," said Volckens in the release. "But we will continue to serve the state until they tell us we're in good shape and we can stop."

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