NMU, others helping community

COVID-19 brings response


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University is lending assistance through the community to help alleviate the COVID-19 crisis.

Northern Michigan University human-centered design professor Peter Pless is putting his expertise and resources to work developing Plexiglass canopies that will encase patients being intubated in the emergency department, helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Pless is working on the project in collaboration with UP Health System-Marquette emergency medicine specialist Dr. Scott Hagle.

“Scott explained to me that even though patients may be sedated, they can still have a cough reflex that disperses particulates into the air and onto surfaces,” Pless said in a news release.

He said the system that’s being made acts like a shield that protects patients and those who are doing the intubation procedure. It also uses a walled vacuum to pull away the air underneath the canopy so it’s not sitting stagnant in there. A filtration system prevents the virus from spreading.

After an initial phone call, Pless developed a prototype that was used and evaluated by Hagle and other UPHS medical personnel. They gave him constructive feedback so he could fine-tune the design.

The revised version got the green light for production on Tuesday. Pless plans to turn out 25 of the canopies, with assistance from his NMU School of Art & Design colleague Jason Schneider.

“We cut the raw material to stock size and Jason is running the CNC router to cut out the arm holes,” Pless said. “I’m using a laser cutter for the openings where the components attach and taking care of the assembly. We’re really trying to ramp things up and beat the clock so we can be proactive in supplying UPHS with these units before they re potentially in dire need of them. It s rewarding to know that we have the resources to assist with larger-scale projects like this. “

Pless said Marquette-based Champion Glass and Wilder’s Glass both made generous donations of raw materials, and financial support has been generated through a GoFundMe campaign.

NMU’s Department of Chemistry has loaned two drying ovens to Upper Peninsula Health System-Marquette to sterilize medical-grade N95 masks for reuse.

“Precisely controlled temperatures have been demonstrated to effectively decontaminate these masks without significant loss of filtration efficiency, but it requires an oven with distinct technical specifications,” NMU professor Brandon Canfield said in a news release. “I happened to have one such oven in my research lab, as did (professor) Tom Getman. We both wanted to loan them to the hospital, and UPHS was absolutely interested.”

Jen Laurin, sterile processing manager at UHPS-Marquette, sent an email expressing her thanks for the donation and other efforts relating to COVID-19.

“I think this cohesive response is truly awesome,” Laurin said in a news release.

Rather than bring contaminated items to the NMU campus to be processed, Canfield said it made more sense to take the bench-top units to the hospital. The two ovens were picked up from an NMU loading dock on Wednesday.

Help coming from others too

The South Shore Fishing Association board has decided to gather personal protection equipment for the Jacobetti Home for Veterans, according to a Facebook post.

“We have taken these veterans fishing, held fish fries for them, and donated fish for a pickled fish get-together at Jacobetti,” the post read. “In this unprecedented time of need, South Shore wants to do whatever we can to help protect these veterans and their care takers. They put it all on the line for us in the past and it’s time for us to do whatever we can to protect them now.”

PPE items needed include gowns or anything that would cover nurses’ clothing that is either disposable or could be reused, such as overalls, scrubs, etc.; hand sanitizer; eye protection; booties; disposable gloves; and disposable masks as well as N95 masks.

If items can’t be obtained, the SSFA indicated it might have to purchase them.

Contact info is: SSFAboard906@gmail.com or 906-361-9992. Comments also may be made in the Facebook thread.

Christie Mastric can be reached at cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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