CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on doctors and other medical personnel across the country. Now, people at the U of I have teamed up to help keep the ones in Champaign County protected.

“We modified, and now we are confident that we have a prototype that is working,” says professor Thanh Nguyen from the U of I engineering school.

Personal protective gear (PPE) has been in high demand, but short supply due to COVID-19.

We hear a lot about the demand for masks, but hospitals and clinics here in Champaign County say they’re running low on gowns. That’s why Carle in Urbana reached out to the U of I to see if they could help fill that need.

“It was very clear to our staff very early on that we had skills to employ to assist during this crisis,” says Bridget Lee-Calfas from the U of I Krannert Center for Performing Arts.

The Krannert Center rose to the occasion. It joined forces with U of I scientists and engineers to ensure a high quality design.

“They put together those renderings and patterns that would make this as accessible as possible to casual sewers in our community,” says Lee-Calfas.

The design was approved by medical personnel at Carle. But now, the Krannert Center is calling on community members to help get the job done.

“We can provide things like thread, twill tape, fabric, and buttons…anything that will be needed to aid in this project,” says Lee-Calfas.

The Krannert Center will give those materials at designated pick-up centers, along with instructions. They need people who can sew to piece the designs together.

“This is really a time of all hands on deck. Everyone has skills. Everyone has talents that they can contribute to this cause, says U of I professor Ruby Mendenhall, who is leading the volunteer effort. “We’re working together to try and save lives, really.”

The Champaign County Emergency Operations Center will sanitize and distribute the gowns to hospitals and clinics in the county. You can find out how to volunteer on the Krannert Center website.