COVID-19: Can You Help Solve the Facemask Shortage?
Sharna Jahangir posted on March 22, 2020 |
Facemasks give vital protection to healthcare workers, but they are dangerously low on supplies.

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to impact healthcare systems worldwide. Hospitals are not equipped to manage the sudden unexpected increase of infected patient volume as supplies, such as facemasks, to protect physicians have dwindled. Governments have shut-down several businesses and suggested self-quarantines to avoid overwhelming the healthcare systems, but is that enough to assist in protecting the medical staff who are the most essential and exposed during the pandemic?

At the time of this writing, the total number of infected victims has surpassed 300,000 patients globally, with the number in the USA passing 27,000. According to a recent The New York Times article, many physicians are taking protection upon themselves after running out of facemasks.

A pediatrician in Washington state has been spraying each mask with alcohol after use until it breaks down, while trying to make her small supply last. Other doctors are taking their N95 Respirators home and washing them with bleach to be reused. This is against guideline for use of N95 Respirators by the National Institute for Occupational, which recommends they be discarded after every patient encounter.

Safety and Health

The protection of our health care workers is critical to us getting a grip on COVID-19 and slowing it down. Running out of masks will not help. Doctors and nurses with makeshift masks or no masks at all in close contact with sneezing and coughing patients could breathe in droplets, making them sick and sidelining them when they are needed the most.

A strategic approach to resolve the design and production of masks as well as supply chain management is needed.

Engineering.com has created an online collaboration platform ProjectBoard and is soliciting ideas from engineers and inventors worldwide looking for a solution to this pressing problem. Can you help? Click here and contribute your ideas on how the facemask shortage can be alleviated.

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