Healthcare workers and first responders are facing dwindling supplies of needed personal protective equipment (PPE) while treating COVID-19 patients. Though some companies have stepped in to modify machines and produce N95 masks and other equipment, the shortage is impacting workers already.
The University of Florida’s health department is reporting that anesthesiology professor Bruce Spiess, M.D., got creative, making “a simple respirator mask from the sterile wrapping that is normally used to surround surgical instrument trays before they pass through gas sterilization or an autoclave,” using Halyard H600.
The two-ply spun polypropylene, which is designed to wrap extra heavy instrument sets (such as those used in orthopedic or cardiovascular procedures), cannot be penetrated by water, bacteria or particles. Each 4x4 ft sheet can produce approximately 10 masks, and the department reports approximately 500 to 1000 sheets are available each day.
According Dr. Spiess' calculations, the mask blocks 99.9% of particulates, making it actually 4% more effective than the N95 mask. “This material is otherwise thrown out, so by taking it, cutting it and making masks out of it, we’ve repurposed it,” said Spiess.
While makeshift PPE would typically not fly under ideal circumstances, UF Health hospital administrators and infection control experts have given approval to proceed with the project so that if there’s a critical shortage, workers can remain protected.
A local seamstress is sewing prototypes from home, and there are plans for kits of material, nose wire and ribbon or elastic to be distributed to others’ homes for sewing. Freshly sewn masks will be UV or autoclave sterilized at the hospital prior to use.
“My goal is to promote this throughout the country. Every hospital uses this same material,” Spiess said.
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