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Greenbrier Co. 3-D prints respirator masks

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(Lewisburg, W.Va.) WVVA - The Greenbrier County Health Department estimates Covid-19 will ramp up in five to seven days. At the same time Centers for Disease Control is now recommending health providers use bandannas if they do not have access to personal protective equipment (PPE). But community members in Greenbrier County are not waiting on a dried up supply chain, instead taking measures to make respirator masks on their own, with the help of 3-D printers.

The initiative is being led by the Greenbrier County Health Department health officer Dr. Brigette Morrison. Dr. Morrison said N95 masks should be used by healthcare providers when treating patients with or suspected of having Covid-19. But Dr. Morrison said if healthcare providers in Greenbrier County become overburdened with Covid-19 patients- which has happened in other parts of the country- she estimates the county only has one month supply of masks. Running out of PPE would come at a time when there is a worldwide shortage of PPE due to the pandemic, which both requires healthcare providers to use more PPE and hinders the manufacturing of PPE due to sick workers in Wuhan, China, a region which manufactures many medical supplies.

About the same time Dr. Morrison was working to solve the PPE shortage in Greenbrier County, Kevin Warfield, a teacher at Greenbrier East High School, came across a 3-D print pattern of a respirator mask shared in a post on Facebook. Greenbrier County Schools then connected Warfield, Angela Leaf, a teacher from Greenbrier West High School, and Lisa Dolan, a teacher at Eastern Greenbrier Middle School, with the Greenbrier Health Department. Each teacher has access to 3-D printers and is using them to print respirator masks. Warfield described the operation of the 3-D printers saying, "It extrudes plastic through a nozzle and it can form plastic parts."

Leaf describes the fast and furious workload saying, " I’ve been at school pretty much since Sunday. I’ve just sort lost track of what day it is. I just feel it’s really important that we keep those printers going so that we can do our part to help."

Warfield said at full capacity between the three teachers they can make 80 to 100 respirator masks per day.

Dr. Morrison received funding from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, located in Lewisburg, to purchase filament, which is the plastic used to create the respirator masks.

Haley Brown

Multimedia Journalist

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