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Campus Volunteers Make PPE To Continue Keeping Healthcare Facilities Safe

Since the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York, SUNY campuses throughout the state have been stepping up to help out frontline workers. From using 3D printers to print face shields to sewing together face masks, the SUNY family continues to work together to create and distribute PPE. Most recently, a group of SUNY Oneonta faculty and staff, and local community members, officially called SUNY Oneonta Volunteers Creating PPE (VCPPE), are making and handing out PPE for local, regional, and state needs as a result of COVID-19.

The group specifically focuses on 3D printed face shield parts, medical gowns, scrub caps, and cloth face masks, which are still in high-demand for statewide healthcare facilities. “While the need for PPE is spiking in other states its not like the requirements for PPE are less now necessary in New York. Nationwide, there’s still a profound shortage of PPE, it’s still a very big problem,” says Doug Reilly, Director, A.J. Read Science Discovery Center. “The idea came about pretty organically. Several offices and people on campus started working on this very early on in the pandemic and the formation of the group came after that.”

A man stands draped in a clear PPE hospital gown made by volunteers.

Theatre Department Technical Director Scott Segar stands draped in a clear PPE hospital gown made by volunteers.

The PPE is made through a production line on the stage of the Goodrich Theater on campus. Matthew Grenier, Assistant Technical Director of the Theatre Department at SUNY Oneonta noted that working in an assembly is more efficient and safer. “If you can use a pair of scissors, and you can hold a heat gun, you can help make a medical gown,” shared Grenier.

Though production varies widely depending on the number of volunteers, with 6-7 volunteers the group has made 60-90 gowns in a 4-hour period. A 200-foot roll of plastic yields about 57 gowns, so they have been able to process 1 to 1-1/2 rolls per 4-hour period. To date, the group has made about 1,000 medical gowns, 1,200 scrub caps, 1,600 3D printed face shield parts, and several hundred cloth face masks. They are currently preparing to start a project to produce a supply of cloth face masks for the SUNY Oneonta campus for the fall semester.

In addition to volunteer efforts, the project has been made possible though support by the College at Oneonta Foundation, and the A.J. Read Discovery Center is a founding sponsor as well. Other major players involve teams from the Theatre Department, Art Department, the School of Science, and the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies. Health & Safety in the Office of Facilities Planning also works closely with SUNY Oneonta VCPPE.

To become a volunteer, VCPPE has put together a web-based form that interested applicants can fill out. Volunteers must follow state Health Department guidelines (e.g., hand washing, mask wearing, social distancing, etc.), and the organization has a set of rules and expectations that each volunteer must abide by in order to participate in the PPE project.

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Written by Julie Maio

Julie is the assistant director for student mental health and wellness for SUNY System Administration.

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