Bioengineering professor Manu Prakash runs a lab at Stanford University that uses low-cost materials to create effective scientific devices. He returned from a recent vacation with some scuba gear — as well as a cold. While he tested negative for COVID-19, he stayed cautious and self-quarantined for two weeks. During that time, he reworked his snorkel mask into a reusable face shield for healthcare providers by combining it with a medical-grade filter. Dubbed the Pneumask, Prakash and his team tested the device and sent their findings to the FDA, which cleared it as a face shield or surgical mask, but not as a respirator. According to The Washington Post, this decision was made so that the masks could go out to healthcare workers immediately, as clearing the device as a respirator would require more time.
So far, Prakash’s team has created 1,500 masks and is sending them to frontline workers across five states. 7,000 more masks are in the pipeline and the team hopes to send out 50,000 Pneumasks. Prakash says that since the masks are reusable, healthcare workers can sterilize them and pass them onto other medical professionals who need them. Hopefully this initiative provides additional safety for nurses and doctors who face a shortage of personal protective equipment.