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Covid-19

Thousands of Advanced Respirators Reach Health Workers

Six thousand powered air-purifying respirators, or PAPRs, donated by 3M, equip health workers across the U.S. California’s Imperial County, hard-hit by Covid-19, receives the largest allocation.

Powered air-purifying respirators, or PAPRS, are prepared for shipment from Direct Relief's warehouse to health providers on the frontlines of Covid-19. The respirators provide health providers with a safe air supply for long stretches of time. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)
Powered air-purifying respirators, or PAPRS, are prepared for shipment from Direct Relief's warehouse to health providers on the frontlines of Covid-19. The respirators provide health providers with a safe air supply for long stretches of time. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief)

As coronavirus infections surge again across the United States, filling hospitals with Covid-19 patients, Direct Relief and 3M are distributing almost 6,000 advanced respiratory protection devices to hospitals and health clinics across the United States. The devices, called powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), help protect healthcare workers in high-risk situations, such as when intubating severely ill Covid-19 patients.

Unlike face masks, PAPRs cover the user’s full face, head and shoulders, and offer higher levels of respiratory protection than N95 masks. Their loose-fitting hoods don’t require fit-testing or that the wearer be clean-shaven.

The PAPRs being distributed were developed and assembled by Ford Motor Co., with design and testing consultation from 3M to provide critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers. 3M donated 6,000 of these devices to Direct Relief, which is distributing them to healthcare providers in need across the United States, especially to critically impacted communities in California.

Of the 6,000 devices, 2,500 were drop-shipped directly to the California Department of Public Health’s Emergency Preparedness Office in the Sacramento area. The CDPH immediately sent most of these PAPRs out to county public health departments. The largest shipment went to Imperial County, which as of July 29 had by far the state’s highest Covid-19 infection rate per 100,000 residents and whose hospitals have been so full they have had to send patients to other counties.

The State of California normally does not keep PAPRs in stock, and until now had none to distribute during the Covid-19 pandemic, said Alan Hendrickson, an emergency planner in the CDPH’s Emergency Pharmaceutical Services Unit.

The remaining 3,500 PAPRs, filling three full truckloads, arrived at Direct Relief’s Santa Barbara warehouse on July 6. Direct Relief allocated the devices—officially called the “Ford Limited-Use Public Health Emergency PAPR”—to 145 hospitals, health centers, and county and state health departments in seven of the hardest-hit states—Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Texas—and Puerto Rico.

“These are incredibly hard to come by,” said Mark Lenhart, Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Society of Critical Care Medicine, which helped Direct Relief identify the health facilities with the greatest need. “It’s been a godsend.”

Lompoc Valley Medical Center in Lompoc, Calif., has several staff members who are unable to be properly fitted to an N95 mask due to facial structure or facial hair, said Chief Nursing Officer Yvette Cope. Like other health providers around the country, the hospital had struggled to obtain PAPRs.

“The arrival of these PAPRs will help us meet the need of protecting our staff who cannot wear an N95 mask and provides additional protection for clinical staff providing life-sustaining airway intubation or administering aerosolized treatments,” Cope said. “We are extremely thankful for this donation!”

The PAPR hood design can be more comfortable for users to wear for a long period of time and its motor, battery, and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can provide up to eight hours of filtered air on a single battery charge. Its large, clear viewing window allows patients to see the full face of the wearer, enhancing interpersonal communications and the overall clinical experience. Additionally, a PAPR’s motor unit can be used by multiple health workers as long as each individual has their own hood.

“3M is dedicated to the support and safety of healthcare workers fighting Covid-19 across the country,” said Bernard Cicut, Vice President Personal Safety Division at 3M. “We are proud to build upon our relationship with Direct Relief and provide these critical PPE devices for distribution to healthcare providers in communities with limited resources and rising case counts.”

“Direct Relief is so deeply grateful for 3M’s donation of much-need PPE, which is enormously important and perfectly timed with Covid-19 cases growing,” said Direct Relief President and CEO Thomas Tighe. “We learned immediately what a huge boost this donation has been for the medical professionals who go to work every day to face this virus that the rest of us are just hoping to avoid. It’s such a great example of the type of leadership and public-spirited action these challenging times call for.”

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