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How a Florida school is using a 3D printer to make hospitals safer for medical staff

As healthcare workers scramble to protect themselves against the coronavirus — while treating those most in need during the pandemic — many are facing a critical shortage of personal protective equipment.

In response, Florida International University and Baptist Health South Florida partnered to create 3D-print reusable face shields for hospital staffers.

Faculty, staff and students have produced 1,000 face shields for Baptist Health since the first printing began on March 21.

The first batch of face shields was scheduled for delivery on Saturday — as the crisis deepened. Three people have died in Miami-Dade from the coronavirus and 11 have died in Broward County as of Saturday morning, Florida’s health department said.

South Florida medical professional deaths

Among the deaths, two are from the South Florida medical community.

Dr. Alex Hsu, a 67-year-old Margate internist who died on Wednesday was the first South Florida medical professional to die from COVID-19.

On Saturday, Jackson Health System said Araceli Buendia Ilagan, a veteran nurse from its intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital, died from COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

The medical community aims to use face shields and other protective wear when caring for patients who have or are suspected to have COVID-19.

As of Saturday afternoon, 212 people were in hospitals with the coronavirus in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and the Florida Keys, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Baptist Health has 11 hospitals and more than 150 urgent care centers and physician offices in the four-county area from Monroe to Palm Beach counties.

How the 3D face shields were printed

FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture, + The Arts mobilized the initiative to print face shields using its 3D printing facilities on campus and in its lab inside Miami Beach Urban Studios, according to the university. More than 30 3D printers are in use.

“As a university we wanted to find a way to leverage the skills, talent and resources of our students, faculty and staff to help these hard-working heroes who are risking their lives to save ours,” said FIU President Mark Rosenberg in a statement. “I’m proud of our collaboration with Baptist Health and hope it will pave the way for more opportunities to make a difference during these difficult times.”

Students from FIU worked with Baptist Health on the face shields’ specifications to make sure that they were appropriate for use while treating patients.

The face shields are made from non-toxic polylactic acid and worn over a mask, which helps maintain the mask’s longevity and to further prevent infected respiratory droplets from entering healthcare workers’ noses and eyes — still a primary means of transmission.

“Out of adversity creates opportunity,” Dr. Barry Katzen, founder and medical director of Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, said in a statement.

“This partnership with FIU is community collaboration at its best, bringing together an academic institution and a healthcare system by using innovation during a time of urgent need.”

This story was originally published March 28, 2020 3:22 PM.

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