The Powerhouse, COVID-19, and the Rise of the Makers
The healthcare system across the country has been challenged by a novel virus that exhibits a unique combination of contagiousness, morbidity, and the unknown. Hospitals and other frontline providers find themselves without sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to adequately support their staff in the face of an unprecedented surge in cases. The simultaneous global outbreak of this pandemic has disrupted the majority of typical supply chains.
How are we all to respond and to stand together with our community? We’re embracing a much smaller world for the time being to slow the spread of this virus and keep a surge of acute patients from overrunning hospital capacity. We’re dusting off old sewing equipment and learning to make masks for our care providers, patients, friends and relatives. We’re learning alongside our at-home children who miss their teachers and friends. Most importantly at the moment, we’re coming together to support our healthcare providers as well as many other frontline workers who will help care for those amongst us most acutely affected by COVID-19.
The Powerhouse has pivoted rapidly from a hands-on, interactive science center to a hub for sourcing, developing, and producing PPE for our community. We’ve closed our gallery and canceled educational programming indefinitely and are devoting 100% of our resources to working with an incredible group of over 300 volunteers to meet urgent local needs. We’ve begun delivering plastic face shields that help preserve the life of N95 masks, hand-sewn gowns that can be sanitized and reused, and cloth masks and caps. The most incredible progress in the first week of the project was the MakerLab’s development of a personal air powered respirator (PAPR) unit. Hospitals consider this the gold standard for protecting staff from infection but commercial units are expensive, unavailable in the near-term, and reliant on disposable elements that are unavailable currently. As far as we can tell, we’re the only group in the country who has a functioning design for a PAPR that can be assembled from supplies mostly sourced from Home Depot!
We are working directly with our local public health department; hospitals in Durango, Cortez, Shiprock, Farmington, and Pagosa Springs; and several smaller local healthcare institutions to fill a critical need for better protection for staff and patients. Your support will help us pivot from our primary educational mission to this current crisis response, make sure we can fully fund and fulfill requests for help from institutions in a 75-radius of Durango, and prepare to welcome families and children back to The Powerhouse when it is safe and prudent to do so. Thank you for standing with us and with our community in this uniquely challenging time.
We will get through this together! Find us on Facebook for updates and to volunteer.