UI and Carle researchers addressing PPE shortage

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s no secret that personal protective equipment (PPE) is in short supply in many places, but now a collaboration between Carle and the University of Illinois is trying to change that. Researchers at UI are developing PPE for people working on the frontlines.

They’re teaming up with the Carle Health Team to roll-out this equipment. Their goal is to design products that are easy and cheap to make while still providing protection to those wearing them. Their first design to launch is a face shield.

“We wanted to make them, of course, as useful as possible, and understanding that the part that might get exposed is the actual shield covering, but the actual headband or the piece that connects to the head, ideally wouldn’t get exposed, so the design was created so that the actually headband was reusable, but the shield component – you could actually throw it away,” said Associate Dean of Research at Carle Illinois College of Medicine Martin Burke.

Researchers are also working on N95 respirators as well as different types of gowns and masks. Their plan is to give these to healthcare workers in Champaign County to use. All to address the nationwide shortage. Testing on the face shields will start this week. The other equipment is still in the developing stage.

“The goal of the PPE initiative is to leverage the collective power of the Health Maker Lab to respond to the urgent need to help front-line healthcare workers,” said Burke. “Barrierless collaboration between experts in medical sciences, engineering and design, in partnership with physicians, nurses and community members, has enabled extraordinary innovation in a time of crisis.”

The design for the face shields was because of the combined effort of lots of researchers. That includes some from the College of Medicine, the Grainger College of Engineering and even costume designers from UI’s theater department.

“With community spread of COVID-19 we are pursuing every option to keep our patients, staff and the community safe. We must go beyond the traditional supply chain and develop and produce necessary equipment. We’re grateful to our colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who have quickly applied their expertise and capabilities to meet these needs,” said Carle Chief Medical Officer Charles Dennis, MD.

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