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UF Anesthesiology Set to Fill Unmet Need for High-filtration Masks Using Surgical Tray Wraps

Nelson Nicolas Algarra, MD
Sonia Mehta, MD
Bruce Spiess, MD, FAHA

Department of Anesthesiology
University of Florida College of Medicine

The University of Florida College of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology has developed two mask prototypes to expand the enhanced filtering mask armament of UF Health Shands and other hospitals. These enhanced filtration masks are unique but are not rated by federal authorities to replace N95 respirators or masks. N95 meet federal standards for used in the most high-risk cases such as COVID-19 and tuberculosis. Our efforts to create large quantities of  high-filtration masks are novel in that we are using the sterile wrapping that surrounds surgical instrument trays before they pass through gas sterilization or an autoclave.

The Halyard H600 two-ply spun polypropylene material (similar to the material used in N95 masks) cannot be penetrated by water, bacteria, or particles in low to moderate gas flow rates. On the basis of the manufacturer’s specifications, the Halyard H600 blocks 99% of particulates to 0.3 µm. 

mask

Doctors model masks made
using the Halyard material.

The Halyard material, which comes in 4-foot × 4-foot sheets, is typically discarded after it is taken off the surgical trays and before coming into contact with patients. Approximately 36 masks can be made from one sheet and an estimated 500 sheets are likely available from our institution per day.

“This material we otherwise throw out, so now by taking it, cutting it, and making masks out of it, we’ve repurposed it,” said Bruce Spiess, MD, FAHA, Professor of Anesthesiology, who had the idea for the initiative. “My goal is to promote this throughout the country. Every hospital uses this same material.” UF Health Shands hospital administration and Infection Control have approved production of the mask.

With the support of Nicolas Algarra, MD; Sonia Mehta, MD; Stephanie Gore, MSN, RN, CCRN; other members of the department; and perfusionist Josene Carlson, a community effort is mobilizing to mass produce the masks as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates and the shortage of personal protective equipment worldwide becomes dire. The initial use of these masks is for a subset of UF Health providers who work in particular general hospital settings and in certain situations. N95 masks will remain in use when providers are caring for COVID-19 patients and/or for those who are suspected of having the disease.

Local seamstress Georgetta Graham has stepped up to help with production and is already sewing prototypes in her home. Soon, kits containing pre-cut pieces of the Halyard material, ribbon or elastic to creates ties that wrap around the head, and a nose wire will be distributed to people in the community to begin sewing masks in their homes.

The masks will be returned to the hospital and sterilized by ultraviolet light or autoclave before being distributed to health care providers. Providers will be fit tested before they are given a mask.

Dr. Spiess envisions mass dissemination of the masks, and the general public may want them for everyday wear as well. Dr. Spiess also hopes to distribute them to first responders such as police officers and firefighters.

“Right now, we have to take care of the health care workers first and foremost,” he said. 

MASK TUTORIAL

This mask consists of two layers of HALYARD H600 medical fabric. The blue side is the right side and will always face out. The ties can be made from medical-grade fabric, acrylic yarn, ribbon, or other materials.

The mask has passed the Respirator Fit Test. Please note that the masks will be sterilized after they are returned to the hospital. Additional information on how to make these masks, Dos and Don’ts, Tips and Tricks, FAQs, etc. can be found on the University of Florida Department of Anesthesiology’s website here.

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