Suncoast Science Center Begins Distribution of COVID-19 Face Mask/Shield Project

Todays News

BY BRITTANY MATTIE SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY APR 8, 2020

In order to falter the spread of COVID-19 throughout our community, Sarasota’s Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab–in partnership with a group of dedicated volunteers–has been leading the cause by providing face masks and face shields to local assisted living facilities, nursing homes and various non-primary healthcare facilities to combat the shortage of protective wear during the ongoing Coronavirus battle.

"With the pandemic changing daily, we are staying flexible and innovating our designs to best serve the need in our community based on recommendations from experts and reliable sources," says Ping Faulhaber of SSC/Fab Lab. 

With access to CAD and other design software, laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl cutters, CNC routers, soldering equipment, power tools and much more, the Fab Lab team of scientists recently finalized their face mask prototype last week and began production. And since the CDC recommends the combination of both mask and shield for optimal protection for healthcare workers, they also created a face shield prototype similar to those made by CoxHealth. Upon review for feedback by local physicians, deliveries became ready to rollout early this week. 

Suncoast Science Center made their first delivery (15 shields, 30 masks) to the Lung Associates of Sarasota yesterdaywhose nurses and doctors work in an office and at the hospital with at-risk patients, including the elderly and those suffering with lung cancer, pneumonia and asthma. 

"We've also identified a need for shields for front line workers at Sarasota Memorial Hospital," says Jenn Samm of SSC. "They're currently using single-use shields which are far from ideal so we are working with their executive director of supply chain on a custom prototype to fit their specific needs. They likely need hundreds, if not thousands, of shields so our need for funds and supplies will increase dramatically. While we're grateful for the donations we have so far, those funds will run out quickly as we work to fill new requests." 

Materials and supplies are also greatly needed to continue making this protective gear possible. Have any extra 100% cotton fabric or 1/8" - 1/2” elastic lying around the house? Perhaps harder-to-source, there is also a major shortage of 6-9 mL PET plastic (polyethylene terephthalate, sometimes referred to by brand name Mylar), required to manufacture the shields. If you are able to supply any of these materials, there is a sanitized green recycling bin outside SSC’s facility where you can leave donations. Everything will be properly sanitized before distribution.

"With thousands of requests coming in and material needs growing," says Faulhaber, "donations are critical to help us protect our community."

Donations can be sent by check to the Suncoast Science Center (a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization) at 4452 S Beneva Rd., Sarasota or online here. 

Do you want to support this effort? If you have sewing skills or a sewing machine to use to help make masks, a willingness to help produce masks/shield, distribute supplies, etc, complete the Call for Volunteers Form.

Photos taken at SMH, courtesy of Suncoast Science Center.

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