Coronavirus task force formed in City of Lancaster

Partnering with AV Hospita

OW Staff Writer | 4/17/2020, midnight

As the fight against COVID-19 reaches a critical moment, healthcare providers are faced with shortages of face masks, eye gear, respirators, gloves and gowns to protect themselves from the virus. Now more than ever is the time to share knowledge, skills, and collaborate.

Early into the 2020 COVID pandemic, Antelope Valley Hospital (AVH) recognized the potential strain that COVID-19 could impose on our local medical resources. In response, they worked to establish a valleywide partnership within the community including the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, and Antelope Valley College to assemble a task force capable of assisting with their needs.

The group’s aim has been to help AVH manage the patient surge that is taxing on the supply of PPE, breathing assistance mechanisms and risking doctor and nurse health.

Lancaster Deputy Mayor Dr. Lawrence Stock, who also serves as a doctor of emergency medicine at Antelope Valley Hospital, said: “With the support of the team, what began as a conversation on 3D printing small connectors and parts, morphed into not only securing resources in high demand but also working prototypes for critical items within the hospital. It is mind-boggling. We are grateful and know together we can overcome this pandemic.”

With the impact of COVID-19 evolving daily, it became important to Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris to partner together and meet the needs of the community during this challenging time.

“The Antelope Valley has always been the heart of the ‘Aerospace Valley.’ With a long history of changing the world, it is almost expected, and this time of crisis is no exception. A few weeks ago, George Whitesides called and asked, ‘How can we help?’ In that time, the team came together and created several life-saving devices. We are the example. I am incredibly proud of the ingenuity of this team and thank everyone involved.”

After several weeks of daily calls, spanning a growing team of talented folks from inside the AV as well as beyond, the team has produced results in several areas.

Perhaps most important, they’ve designed and built several prototype patient oxygen hoods, which allow oxygen rich pressure to support those admitted with COVID-19 - opening up the alveoli in the lungs, and helping to delay or prevent Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) from developing. By mitigating ARDS, we hope this will then reduce the subsequent need for ventilator support.

The team has also created and built two designs for protective enclosures to reduce exposure to health workers during intubation procedures, as well as a design for an antechamber for those workers to don and doff protective clothing. The Intubation Shield is a transparent enclosure that fits over the patient’s head with holes to enable a doctor to reach in and perform the difficult intubation process with less exposure to COVID-19.

The team is helping local hospitals set up a distributed oxygen delivery system for a local field hospital to be ready for a potential surge in patients.

Finally, the procurement teams and the City are serving as an extra set of arms to rapidly source additional PPE and supplies for the hospitals, whether that be masks, fingertip oximeters, gowns or respirators.