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Americans step up to mitigate PPE shortage during coronavirus crisis

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NEW ORLEANS, La. — The surge of COVID-19 cases across the country has led to an unprecedented shortage in personal protective equipment for medical professionals on the front lines. However, technology is helping people step up and fill the void for health-care providers.

In Peter Seltzer’s “PetesPaperCrafts” art workshop in New Orleans, production is at an all-time high. Though the three-dimensional cardboard dioramas he’s known for making and selling are an afterthought these days. Instead, the workshop is functioning as a production line for thousands of protective face shields—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“Someone called me up and said, ‘hey, Pete, we need your laser cutters.’ And then all of a sudden the pens started dropping,” Seltzer said via video conference. “We ramped up my studio and now we’re working three shifts in there a day, 24 hours a day cutting the acrylic to make face shields.”

After receiving a call to jump into action, Seltzer said he and a group of other artists began collaborating within two days. A couple of local engineers provided them with open-source designs of the face shields. Prototypes were made and within days Seltzer was cutting and etching the acrylic headband portions of the face shields for one of Louisiana’s largest healthcare providers, Ochsner Health System.

“We have pallets of acrylic coming into my studio. We have four laser cutters going 24 hours a day,” he said. “Then the material is being stacked, ready to go out the door to my partner, who puts the [protective clear film] together. And then we’re ready to ship them to the hospital.”

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Peter Seltzer wears one of the protective face shields he produces for a New Orleans area health-care provider. He produces about 2,000 masks a day, using laser cutters, from his art workshop. (Peter Seltzer)

COVID-19 has hit the state of Louisiana hard. At the time of publication, the state was approaching 7,000 positive cases and nearly 300 deaths. Gov. Jon Bel Edwards said New Orleans, the hardest hit in the state, was on track to run out of critical supplies like ventilators and hospital beds by the first weekend of April.

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“This is going to get much worse before it gets better,” Edwards said. “We can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.”

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell tweeted out a cryptic message on Twitter that said: “We have to prepare morgues. We know it’s coming.”

It’s these dire circumstances that compelled Seltzer to do whatever he could to help. The artist also works as an overnight paramedic. So he said he gets a firsthand look at what patients and health-care workers are trying to live through.

“My first night working with COVID patients, I didn’t have enough equipment and I was terrified of the situation that I saw unfolding in front of me,” he said.

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Like Seltzer, people across the country are stepping up and helping front line workers any way that they can.

Trans Lualhati, a materials engineer at Johnson and Johnson, has been producing protective face shields and N95 masks for a few hospitals in the Philadelphia region. His sister is a nurse for the University of Pennsylvania Health System and told him of the PPE shortage at that hospital. So, he jumped into action—leveraging his relationship with his alma mater, LaSalle University, to secure four 3-D printers and plastic materials to begin producing and donating protective equipment to health-care workers.

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He said he stumbled upon a COVID-19 group on Facebook that provided him with the designs he needed to make NIH approved face masks and shields. He then began his own Facebook group so he could collaborate with other makers in order to strategically service nearby hospitals, nursing homes and rehab facilities.

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“We’re at 63 members. It’s a mix of home health-care workers, health-care professionals, that are in the hospitals, who are putting in requests for these face shields. As well as engineers, designers, financial advisers,” Lualhati said. “There are so many other people here who their main trait isn’t making. It’s just that they have the connections and resources to get stuff rolling out.”

He, personally, has been producing protective equipment out of his apartment nearly every day for 12 hours a day. That has allowed him to produce nearly 100 face masks and shields a day. Afterward, he drops them off for delivery—avoiding any contact with workers at the medical facilities he donates to.

His hope is more people pitch in and help during this unprecedented time. He also looking into setting up a supply chain for overwhelmed health-care providers in neighboring states like New Jersey and Delaware.

“No one asked me to do this. I just stepped up because I knew I needed to. It was just my gut,” he said. “I’d feel horrible five years down the line and we lost a third of our population because nobody did anything.”

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For Seltzer, this work is the single bright spot in a shadow of darkness.

“I am so proud that I’m able to provide this to hospitals and also to my friends,” Seltzer said. “I know these are going to get to the front lines and protect my friends. I don’t think I can do anything better than that right now.“

SOURCE : https://www.foxnews.com/us/health-care-crisis-americans-step-up-to-mitigate-ppe-shortage

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