Substitutions, Covid-19 edition
March 29, 2020 1:49 AM   Subscribe

When a microbiology lab in Sweden was about to run out of swabs for coronavirus test kits, some folks there realized they had many chlamydia swabs in stock. The lab tried using those swabs instead. The substitute swabs worked. Does anyone have other examples of successful substitutions for important equipment and supplies (including clothing and personal protective equipment, PPE) needed for anything related to responding to the pandemic OR that could be applied to responding to the pandemic?

The lab bought thousands more chlamydia test swabs and is trying to spread the word about this effective substitute (link to Swedish article). I am looking for other examples of ingenuity and resourcefulness in these challenging times. It would be awesome if you have a source for your example but is totally fine if you do not.
posted by Bella Donna to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A number of gin distilleries in the UK have switched to making hand sanitiser. My favourite is the Leith Distillery, who since they have no dispenser bottles are sending it out to organisations in their very elegant gin bottles (to be put into existing hand sanitiser dispensers at point of use).

Not as much of a change as the above, while cloth masks are a bad idea, making scrubs is an excellent one - the His Dark Materials costume department are among many sewers making scrubs for NHS staff.

3D printing is being utilised to the point that the FDA has a set of FAQs about 3D printing medical equipment.
posted by Vortisaur at 3:11 AM on March 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

I saw this through social media and it’s mentioned in a Medline article though I didn’t have a login to see the full text: reddit
posted by brilliantine at 4:43 AM on March 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's been reported that a medical fetish store has donated their stock of disposable scrubs to the NHS.
posted by teststrip at 5:11 AM on March 29, 2020 [5 favorites]

I've seen some pictures on the news of workers using trash bags for scrubs. (Think like using a trash bag as an improvised rain poncho.) Seems like you could take one of the clear ones with a hood and wear it backwards to get frontal protection from head to mid-thigh. Could probably disinfect them afterwards and use them again. (Assuming water proof plastic is as much of a barrier as the disposable PPE smocks.)
posted by zengargoyle at 6:04 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

At the supermarket yesterday, a lot of people were using produce bags as low-fidelity gloves to avoid touching anything directly.

I think I'm gonna start keeping a roll of dog shit bags in my pocket for such purposes.
posted by notsnot at 6:37 AM on March 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

I saw an item on the news last week about hospitals in Italy adapting scuba diving masks for use as ventilators.
posted by HotToddy at 6:39 AM on March 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

When Ford and GM talked about swiveling to make ventilators I was pretty skeptical - I work in automotive and I couldn't imagine how you'd retool production lines. Well Shut My Mouth. Ford is going to repurpose the seat blower motor for cooling ventilated seats.
posted by Caravantea at 6:42 AM on March 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

At the University of Minnesota they made a ventilator out of a red metal toolbox.
posted by shadygrove at 8:02 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

making scrubs is an excellent one - the His Dark Materials costume department are among many sewers making scrubs for NHS staff.

Here in the US, one of the more striking visuals are the Phillies and Yankees pinstripe scrubs produced by a baseball uniform company.
posted by zamboni at 8:55 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some people have suggested converting ORs into ICUs (and using anesthesia machines for ventilation).
posted by pinochiette at 9:07 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

We had a distillery here in Vermont that pivoted to making hand sanitiser. They don't have bottles, so it's just BYO. Also our local glove factory retooled their machines to make cutout fabric swatches for low-end protective masks and are teaming up with a bunch of home sewers who will assemble them.
posted by jessamyn at 9:21 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

To follow on to HotToddy - Italian Engineers Turn Snorkeling Masks Into Life-Saving Ventilators; site with translations; YouTube
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:53 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just a minor nitpick re: caravantea’s specific “Ford making PPE” article: they are using the blower motors from F-150 seats to make PAPR backpacks for healthcare workers (positive air pressure — the backpack sucks in air from the environment, through a filter, and then blows it into the face-mask). The idea is to protect the person wearing the mask by making sure that any air that leaks is already-filtered air leaking out, not potentially virus-filled air leaking in.

So, not quite F-150 ventilated seats into ventilators, but still ingenious and useful!
posted by Alterscape at 10:39 AM on March 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

A company called Bauer that makes hockey face masks has adapted their product to make face shields for medical purposes.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:19 AM on March 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

I saw a picture on facebook of someone taking apart a bungee cord to use the strips of elastic inside for straps for homemade masks. Apparently elastic is hard to find.

I'm considering wearing my swim goggles next time I make a foray to the supermarket.
posted by mareli at 1:47 PM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Disney just announced that they are donating a whole bunch of rain poncho's to the medical community.

Disney donates masks, rain ponchos to healthcare workers on frontlines of crisis

A rain poncho makes decent washable / reusable plastic smock.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:46 AM on April 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks, all! I appreciated every answer, no kidding!
posted by Bella Donna at 6:32 AM on April 30, 2020

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