(CBS4) – We’ve seen all kinds of innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is a new one. Some health care facilities in Northern Colorado are now trying a system used by exterminators to decontaminate personal protective equipment.

(credit: CBS)

A former ICU nurse and an exterminator came up with the idea. Aislinn Kottwitz treats bugs for a living and David James kills ’em. These days, they have a common enemy – a bug responsible for a pandemic that’s caused a shortage of things like masks.

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(credit: CBS)

Kottwitz says James approached her a few weeks ago, “Hey, I have this idea, is this crazy?”

A crazy idea for crazy times. Turns out coronavirus and bedbugs have something in common – neither can survive above 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Literally we’re talking about treating a different bug with the same system,” says James. It’s a high heat system.  Along with bed bug extermination, James thought, why not use it for coronavirus decontamination?

“Heat up an 8 by 8 room and everything that goes in that room would be sterilized,” James said. “We can decontaminate masks, they can be reused safely.”

Kottwitz was on-board immediately, “I really wanted to protect my friends in ICU.”

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She took the idea to her state representative, Rep. Hugh McKean, who got the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to sign off.

“It’s that kind of innovative world, where you can take a product that was designed for one thing, use it for something else, and have this remarkable benefit of decontaminating for COVID-19,” McKean said.

The National Institutes of Health recently approved high heat — the kind used to kill bedbugs — for coronavirus decontamination. And James is working with seven health care facilities in Northern Colorado who plan to begin using it next couple weeks, “We’re not reinventing the wheel here.”

Kottwitz says it’s not so crazy after all.

“It feels unbelievable.”

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