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COVID-19: LVHN innovates for N-95 masks

With shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the United States because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) is extending the use of N-95 respirator masks used by caregivers as protection against the virus.

LVHN colleagues are recycling surgical wrap, common blue sanitary sheets that protect operating room instruments before they are used, to make coverings for N-95 masks.

“There’s a sense of urgency as its been well documented that health-care providers everywhere are running low on N-95 respirator masks,” said Donald Hougendobler, LVHN’s Director of Environment and Sustainability.

“In the last 24 hours, our team has created a prototype, received approvals from Infection Control and Prevention and Public Safety and Emergency Management, and gathered supplies to construct mask covers,” Hougendobler said March 20.

Colleagues gathered March 20 at the School of Nursing building at Lehigh Valley Hospital - 17th Street to construct blue-wrap mask coverings. They practiced social distancing by setting up work stations throughout the room.

One mask can be made every two minutes with a few supplies, including blue sterile wrap, a hole-punch and twine.

The blue-wrap mask coverings greatly increase the lifespan of N-95 respirator masks.

“Using blue sterile wrap adds an extra barrier if put over the N-95 mask and it will make them last a lot longer,” Hougendobler said. “This little solution [mask coverings] will give us peace of mind and allow us to protect our patients and colleagues.”

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOLehigh Valley Health Network staff makes coverings for N-95 masks.