WVU collaborates with healthcare workers to produce helpful tools, makes designs publically available

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Hospital staff on the front lines of the coronavirus are wearing surgical masks throughout their entire shifts.

The Innovation Hub at the WVU Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources has been working with hospital workers in recent weeks to develop products for their jobs. (Photo: Statler College)

While necessary for their protection, they're also bringing unnecessary pain and discomfort.

Hospital workers have reported irritation to the skin behind their ears - adding another stress to their already stressful days.

The Innovation Hub at the WVU Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources has been working with hospital workers in recent weeks.

"When they wrap their elastic over their ears, they get a little bit irritated and have a little bit of bleeding by the end of their shift," Gene Cilento said. He's part of the college's team developing the products for healthcare workers.

They've worked to develop shields, surgical masks, and mask extenders.

The college this week released its design of the mask extenders to the public.

"There are a lot of people out there making things, but the nice thing about what we're doing in the Innovation Hub is we're asking the docs to give us their input on what would work for them and what kind of materials to use," Cliento said.

They've sent roughly 2,000 mask extenders over to Ruby Memorial Hospital.

The original design was a 3D print model. The Innovation Hub modified it to be compatible with a laser cutter and waterjet.

Now, the Innovation Hub will serve as the central point of contact to deliver the mask extenders and help other production facilities.

"Everybody wants to help," Cilento said. "You don't see that very often, but everybody wants to step up and help."

The Innovation Hub continues to look at how to make protective shields to make those more comfortable for hospital workers.

"We expect an upsurge in cases over the next couple weeks as this virus moves through the system," Cilento said. "We're trying to get some things we know they can use in the hospital environment and make a stockpile for them. We're going to engage whoever wants to work."