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Coronavirus: Winnipeg 3D printer hobbyists make PPE for front-line workers

Nurse Cristina Settembrese fixes two masks to her face during her work shift in the COVID-19 ward at the San Paolo hospital in Milan, Italy, April 10, 2020. Luca Bruno/Associated Press

Winnipeg 3D printer hobbyists and businesses have banded together to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) free of charge for health-care workers and other people on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group of about 75 volunteers — Winnipeg Fighting COVID — started up about two-and-a-half weeks ago, its operations coordinator Nick Burley said.

In the time since, the volunteers have crafted and donated about 3,000 ear protectors with 110 3D printers — the ear protectors are hooked on to the straps of surgical masks to relieve pressure on the wearer’s ears.

READ MORE: Four new Manitoba COVID-19 cases, one patient moved out of ICU

“A lot of people working 12, 16 hour days with these masks on their face are running into a lot of issues — chafing, blistering, wounds on the back of their ears,” Burley, a hobbyist with a 3D printer, said.

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“We’ve had a huge outpouring of nurses and other front-line workers, first responders … essential workers out in the community. We’re trying to get as many units as possible out to people in need.”

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The manufacturers send the finished product to a central location where the PPE is sanitized to Health Canada standards, Burley said, before being packaged and sent off.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba receives major shipment of PPE' Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba receives major shipment of PPE
Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba receives major shipment of PPE – Apr 23, 2020

The group came to be after local 3D printing hobbyists wanted to do something to contribute, despite not working on the front line of the pandemic.

“I have a 3D printer at home and I use it for little projects… I had seen on a Winnipeg 3D printing Facebook (group) that quite a few people were printing [ear protectors] and getting them out to people,” Burley said. “Not everybody can go out on the front line and help — be a nurse, be a doctor, or help in that regard.
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The group has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the material needed to keep printing the ear protectors — as of Saturday evening, it had raised $1,300.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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