COVID-19 UPDATE: Innovation a key element of West Virginia's ongoing COVID-19 response efforts

5/27/2020

 

CHARLESTON, WV – Since early March, when COVID-19 began to spread across the United States, West Virginia has been at the forefront of innovative response efforts.

Using a whole-of-government approach, Gov. Jim Justice has spearheaded a multi-faceted response, working closely with government agencies, the business community, West Virginia’s community and technical colleges and higher education institutions, nonprofit and volunteer organizations, and citizen groups to build response capabilities throughout the Mountain State.

Throughout the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Virginia has looked at innovative ways to partner with various organizations to engage cutting-edge technologies and science to sanitize vehicles and workspaces, provide additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to first responders and medical professionals, and to assist with increased testing capabilities.

Today, Gov. Justice and other state leaders provided an overview of several products that have recently been developed in West Virginia to streamline and broaden response capabilities, including new and innovative ventilator systems, 3D-printed testing swabs, reusable medical gowns, protective masks, and Hydrogen Peroxide disinfecting systems.

“I’ve said over and over, I could never be more proud of West Virginia and West Virginians because they are the heart and soul of this country,” Gov. Justice said. “At the end of the day, the very thing that they are the greatest at is that they’re smart. They’re innovative people, they’re creative people, they’re craftsmen, and you see it right here with what’s happening.”

As the production of these innovative new products continues, the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) will work to build a stockpile of the items in case a need to further ensure the safety of West Virginians should arise in the future.

Automated Bag Ventilator System (ABVS)

 

Seeing a national need for ventilators and not wanting West Virginia to face shortages of the highly sought-after machines, Azimuth, Inc. of Morgantown teamed with West Virginia University (WVU) Medical Center and the WVNG to create new styles of ventilators to aid in patient respiration.

“In conjunction with the West Virginia National Guard and the WVU Medical Center, Azimuth developed the Automated Bag Ventilator System to increase our state’s crisis preparedness,” stated Joshua Day a project manager and electrical engineer for Azimuth, Inc. “Unlike other portable ventilator systems, our system incorporates patient safety redundancies in a low cost, low power, and portable solution.”

System design and fabrication were accomplished using Azimuth’s in-house engineering capabilities while only sourcing a few custom components from vendors, allowing for quick production and distribution of the new ventilators to ensure West Virginian citizens were protected and medical facilities had the critical ventilators on-hand to fight the virus and save lives.

3D printing of swabs for testing kits and additional PPE

 

While testing is a critical element in helping to fight COVID-19, testing materials such as swabs from both local supplies and the Strategic National Stockpile were soon depleted after the pandemic began to sweep the nation. In order to make sure West Virginians could be properly tested, the WVNG contacted The Innovation Hub, housed in the WVU Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, which partnered with Formlabs, a 3D-printing technology developer and manufacturer based in Somerville, Massachusetts, to produce swabs for testing.

WVU and WVU Hospitals are now able to produce up to 10,000 swabs per week to ensure COVID-19 testing needs are met across the Mountain State.

"One of the most important things identified for our state to combat COVID-19 is our ability to conduct testing on a large scale," said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the WVNG. "Understanding this vital need, the Guard has stepped up to provide assistance in procuring the necessary materials to make swabs right here in West Virginia.

"Just as we have been innovative in developing our own PPE, this is another example of the type of collaboration and ingenuity that makes West Virginia stand out from the crowd in our ongoing response to this pandemic."

Reusable medical gowns

 

While corporate partner DuPont was busy delivering stock Tyvek coveralls across the United States to protect first responders, the company went one step further and developed a new Tyvek-based material, specifically for COVID-19 response, that is being produced and retrofitted in West Virginia.

DuPont donated material to West Virginia Correctional Industries which, in turn, enlisted inmate workers to take the raw material and create medical gowns in their facilities. Unlike single-use gowns that most medical facilities utilize, these gowns can be sanitized and reused, saving facilities expenses and helping to alleviate national supply shortages of existing gowns.

In addition to the material that was donated by DuPont, Prison Industries and Mustang Survival have produced more than 3,500 reusable gowns to date, with more scheduled for production to meet demand in the state. 

The West Virginia Mask

 

Perhaps nothing is more emblematic of the COVID-19 pandemic than face masks. Across the world, face masks, especially N-95 particulate masks which are used by medical professionals and first responders, became a desperately needed item soon after the pandemic began.

The WVNG, working with corporate partners, has developed a new multi-functional reusable mask, utilizing 3D-printing technology and innovation that is already being looked at by other states and national organizations as a potential breakthrough in mask technology.

The mask itself is a soft, form-fitting unit that will mold itself to a wearer's face, providing a safe seal, with the benefit of a removable filtration system. Filter materials can be made from various materials to meet different requirements, including carbon filters and up to N-95 filtration. Filter materials can be disposed of after use, the mask sanitized, and with new filter elements can be reutilized hundreds of times. In addition to the built-in filter flexibility, the mask also incorporates an oxygen outlet which can allow medical personnel to begin oxygen treatments for patients without their mask having to be removed, thereby mitigating potential exposure to harmful pathogens.

The mask, named the West Virginia Mask, is currently being tested by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and, upon approval, will be produced en masse with production goals of 5,000 per day. The masks will then be provided for free to medical professionals and first responder agencies throughout West Virginia and will be made available worldwide for purchase.

Aerosolized Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP) systems

 

Aerosolized Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP) systems are used in hospitals and medical facilities to disinfect and sanitize metal and nonmetal medical devices such as surgery tools. The systems work by utilizing a 7 percent hydrogen peroxide solution that is vaporized into a dry fog and have been shown to be effective in killing spores, viruses, mycobacteria, fungi, and bacteria.

Typically, AHP systems are static. However, early in the response efforts, mobile AHP systems were identified as potentially game-changing to help disinfect ambulance and first responder vehicles, as well as building spaces that had been contaminated with COVID-19.

Sgt. 1st Class Brian Tomasek with the WVNG contacted a company based in Florida that manufactures mobile AHP systems and was able to secure two such systems to test the validity for mobile use.

Within a week of having the systems in hand, more than 150 ambulances and first responder vehicles had been tested, and the systems had proven to be incredibly useful.

Fast forward to the end of May, and the WVNG has procured 22 AHP systems, which have been used to sanitize numerous daycare facilities, nursing homes, gyms, workspaces, conference rooms at the West Virginia State Capitol Complex, thousands of N95 and surgical masks for medical professionals via a converted mobile cargo container unit, and more than 500 first responder vehicles. Overall, more than 550 missions utilizing AHP have been completed around the state, ensuring safe environments and equipment for personnel and citizens.


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Week 5 of the Gov. Justice reopening plan – West Virginia Strong – The Comeback – is now underway and announcements regarding future reopenings have been made. The Governor's new Safer At Home order is also in effect. 

Click here to view all Executive Orders and other actions taken by Gov. Justice to combat the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

For more information about COVID-19 prevention and more, call the State’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-887-4304 or visit Coronavirus.wv.gov.

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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

Contact

Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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