MiraCosta College could soon be manufacturing thousands of face masks, hundreds of face shields and scores of decontamination boxes as part of a statewide effort to ramp up production of personal protective equipment in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, school officials announced on Tuesday.
Instructors at MiraCosta College's Technology Career Institute (TCI) in Carlsbad -- using the institute's machine and engineering shops, and 3D printers -- have already developed prototypes and are ordering parts for hospital face shields.
Officials hope to begin manufacturing up to 100 face shields a day by the end of the week, said Linda Kurokawa, MiraCosta's director of community education and workforce development at the college.
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After the abrupt end of on-campus learning, Kurokawa and ther colleagues felt the need to do something in battle against coronavirus.
"We all decided to pivot and, instead of feeling sad, we have all this wonderful equipment at TCI and we decided to do something productive," Kurokawa said.
Prototypes of decontamination boxes that will use UV lights and
sensors to disinfect some pieces of medical equipment should be completed by early next week. In addition, students in a sewing and upholstery class are being recruited to stitch up to 1,000 face masks per week using elastic bands and fabric that Kurokawa purchased from a local crafts store.
Kurokawa said that finding supplies to manufacture the items was proving challenging.
"We're doing your best over here," Kurokawa said, adding that she was looking "every place I can possibly go on the Internet to find things. It's very challenging…. You can find suppliers who make a clear shield or the things you need, but you have to look hard. At the moment, I'm able to get the exact size [plastic shield] I need, [but] the elastic to use for the back of the shield is very hard to come by."
Finding the supplies in a timely fashion is also critical -- Kurokawa said that in some cases, they would have to wait for May or June to get parts, when it's possible that the emergent need for the PPE and decontamination boxes may be over, but, "if not, we'll keep making 'em."
The face masks and shields will be sent to Rady Children's Hospital
for distribution, while the decontamination boxes will be sent to hospitals and medical centers throughout the region.
"As soon as we can get our protocols, logistics, and approvals in
place, we plan on moving forward," Kurokawa said.
The TCI is part of the college's community education and workforce development department, and is designed to provide not-for-profit, accelerated job training in advanced manufacturing, engineering, health care, security and other industries.
The MiraCosta College Maker Lab at the Oceanside campus, which is part of the college's design department, is equipped with seven 3D printers and is where Instructional Associate Chris Boehm developed prototypes last week for a face mask, face shield and a ventilator splitter. The splitter can allow a single ventilator to be used for two separate patients at the same time.
As soon as he gets the go-ahead, Boehm said, he plans on fabricating a number of pieces of personal protective equipment for use at local hospitals and medical centers.
"We certainly wouldn't be able to mass produce anything, but if we
could use the maker lab to make even 100 face shields or 250 vent splitters, that would be enough to, perhaps, save more than a few lives," Boehm said. "I'm just so grateful MiraCosta College has an opportunity to have a positive impact on our community, and it really underscores what a community college is all about."
Once supplies are on-site at TCI in Carlsbad, the devices will be assembled by Kurokawa and her staff, who will be joined by student volunteers from current classes and some of their instructors.
"We have areas designated in TCI to keep them very far apart from one another, and they will be wearing masks, and they will be wearing gloves and have sanitizer everywhere and disinfectant spray," Kurokawa said. "I just printed out our protocols for disinfecting the areas."
Kurokawa said the college is looking for donations to assist with the costs associated with the manufacturing, urging contributors to contact the MiraCosta Foundation, specifying that they are contributing specifically to the PPV/decontamination box project.