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Shielding medical professionals in the face off with COVID-19

A massive Virginia Tech effort is underway to create thousands of face shields for medical personnel in the New River Valley who need protection while treating patients with COVID-19.

But the production team needs the community’s help.

The team, led by Alex Leonessa, a mechanical engineering professor, and Liam Chapin, a Virginia Tech computer science major, is looking for volunteers who own or have access to 3D printers to help make headpieces for the face shields. The shields will be delivered to hospitals in the Roanoke and New River valleys and to local emergency responders, such as firefighters and law enforcement.

Each 3D printed headpiece attaches to a laser-cut polyester sheet, which folds to cover the face and forehead. Medical professionals wear these shields to protect their faces from airborne germs and other toxins.

The team created a website for the community with information about the face shield design and supplies needed, and so far, the effort is working. Volunteers, including Virginia Tech students, have stepped up to help make face shields, and as of earlier this week, the team had distributed 500. It has another 1,000 ready for distribution, said Leonessa.

The face shield push is one facet of a large interdisciplinary effort driven by a group of university faculty and researchers to provide Southwest Virginia medical professionals with personal protective equipment and ventilation supplies to treat patients with COVID-19.