CSU will lead state testing efforts on protective equipment for healthcare workers

Posted at 11:02 AM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 13:06:50-04

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A Colorado university is working to test equipment for healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.

Gov. Jared Polis asked Colorado State University in Fort Collins to organize the testing of personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, for the state’s healthcare workers. The items, which include masks, face shields and respirators, help protect the workers from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

READ MORE: Latest on COVID-19 in Colorado

CSU will "initiate and coordinate testing to provide recommendations to the state on PPE distribution," according to the school. The state is currently preparing to receive shipments of PPE from outside the state, as well as some that were manufactured in Colorado. CSU will test all of the shipments to see if they meet, or come close to, federal requirements. This means that the masks must effectively filter out the virus particles when put on and fitted properly.

CSU Vice President for Research Alan Rudolph said their first focus will be on testing masks from out of state that meet or are close to N95 respirator specifications.

“We are doing this to prioritize testing of masks to help protect medical healthcare professionals in the state who may be exposed to the virus while providing healthcare services,” he said.

CSU will also make recommendations based on their findings to the state regarding the “suitability of a PPE mask for large-scale production and distribution to healthcare workers” in the state.

Down the line, CSU may add other types of PPE testing, such as face shields, gowns and other kinds of respirators.

The CSU lab has not only the expertise, but the facilities needed to reproduce federal protocols for testing respirators, said John Volckens, a professor of mechanical engineering at CSU.

Volckens is also the head of the university’s Center for Energy Development and Health, which will be conducting the testing.

“By conducting these tests in-state, we hope to ensure that personal protective equipment is reliable and immediately available to Colorado healthcare professionals working on the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic,” he said.

In addition, CSU will work with other groups based in Colorado — including clinical facilities, academic institutions, and federal labs — to establish a second site for the testing of PPE.

Producers of PPE that may qualify for testing should click here for more information. The research teams will prioritize testing of PPE masks that are at or close to the N95 specifications, and are able to be mass-produced quickly and affordably.

CSU is active in other research as well involving COVID-19, including the race for a vaccine.