With scary statistics of climbing COVID-19 cases dominating the news, it’s important to balance this with hope. The COVID-19 global pandemic has left so much uncertainty in its wake, it’s hard to know what to do to help. Makerspaces are equipped with tools and machines that can be used to make life-saving gear, but will hospitals welcome it? If so, how can you be certain that you’re making personal protective equipment (PPE), or ventilator parts, correctly?
Start by Checking Hospital Websites
Check your local hospital’s website to see what’s needed. Even if they aren’t accepting donations produced outside of a factory – yet – that doesn’t mean they won’t need to do so in the future. Here in Michigan, we are currently under a shelter-in-place executive order. However, leaving home in order to donate protective gear to health organizations, is allowed.
As of today, the University of Michigan hospitals are not accepting hand-sewn masks or 3D printed parts for ventilators, but if you have hand sanitizer, wipes, or factory-made masks to donate, they are in dire need. The medical professionals that I’ve spoken to have also indicated that what will be accepted, and what is needed, is changing on an hourly basis. It’s a good idea to keep checking back. It also doesn’t hurt to start making hand-sewn masks and other equipment, just in case.
What to Make and How to Make it
Lately, there has been an influx of information about homemade COVID-19 supplies and remedies. Many of these sites contain false, and even dangerous information. Unfortunately, you can’t make hand sanitizer from Tito’s vodka. Additionally, extrapolated home remedies such as ingesting non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate, can prove deadly. Before you start making, it’s really important to determine that you have accurate information, but how do you know where to look?
Two organizations at the forefront of makerspaces are Nation of Makers and Make Community. Both have pages devoted to COVID-19. Nation of Makers has a listing of initiatives with how-to details, that other makerspaces are taking in response to COVID-19. The Make Community has a Plan C from Makerspace page with resources such as open source ventilator plans, and protective face shield designs.
More Help Coming Soon
Although makerspace grassroots efforts are important, there is also more large-scale help coming soon. Although you can’t make hand sanitizer from Tito’s vodka at home, Tito’s and other distilleries have started to produce hand sanitizer, on site. General Motors and Tesla are working to repurpose factories to produce needed ventilators. Ford is helping with respirators, ventilators and face shields. 3M has also increased their production of N95 masks.
What You Can Do
Making PPE and ventilator parts at home, is a great use of maker skills. Despite the help coming from industry, this maker-made equipment may still be needed. The best thing we can all do, is practice social distancing. Talented makers should also keep an eye on the local hospital websites to see what’s being currently accepted, and what’s needed most, by our heroic health care workers.