By Conor McCue

AURORA, Colo., (CBS4) – Researchers at University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus are testing the personal protective equipment being made by countless Colorado companies looking to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jennifer Wagner, a research instructor with the department of bioengineering, has been leading the testing for several weeks.

(credit: CBS)

Student, Anne Lyons, helps perform the tests as well.

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“Originally, this lab was born out of the governor’s task force, and our strong leadership within the department stepped up and was able to put a team in place,” said Wagner.

The current focus is medical face shields, which many Colorado companies have started producing in the last two months. Many had never made them before, and now have the Anschutz team checking their work.

“How could we ensure that some of these innovative, new ideas would perform in a way that would actually help the health care worker, as opposed to just give, perhaps, a false sense of security?” asked Wagner.

(credit: CBS)

To do so, Wagner and Lyons perform a number of tests. The two examine the visibility of the masks with an eye chart, the durability by dropping a piece of metal from a specified distance, and coverage by using a spray bottle filled with a dyed liquid. Flammability is also tested, due to the large amounts of oxygen present in many hospitals.

So far they’ve found comfort and coverage are areas needing the most improvement with many products.

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“We can give that feedback to manufacturers so they can correct those so we can make sure everything is effective for front line health care workers,” said Lyons.

(credit: CBS)

Wagner is doing similar testing on ventilators. Her two focuses are running simulations of two scenarios – ventilator splitting and alternatives to ventilators, such as a CPAP machine.

No matter the product, it’s all about data and what will be most effective in the fight against COVID-19.

“If we’re making assumption of the quality of products we’re putting on our faces and their performance, then that confidence and our sense of security from our equipment could be misplaced,” Wagner said.

Wagner and her colleagues do not make any product recommendations. Instead, they send the test results to the company or state office that made the request. That entity can then use the results to make better decisions for product development or procurement.

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Conor McCue