Albuquerque manufacturer building N-95 masks for healthcare workers

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A local manufacturer is stepping up to help make sure New Mexico’s healthcare workers have what they need to protect themselves. Representatives from Marpac and Lovelace Hospital say they are preparing for a surge in hospitals.

When Lovelace Hospital CEO Troy Greer saw the strain on the global supply chain for personal protective equipment or PPE, he reached out to Marpac, a local medical manufacturer in Albuquerque, to see if they could help.

“They asked me what they thought would be the best use of their time to help us, and we think with a respiratory borne disease that most importantly what we can do, is ensure we have masks to make sure that we have respiratory protection,” explained Greer.

Marpac is a local facility that normally makes devices like tracheostomy tubes and other respiratory gear. However, Marpac recently added staff and expanded their operating hours to build the equivalent of N-95 masks to help out local hospitals. N-95 refers to the percentage of small micron particles the mask can filter out, so they’re critical for healthcare workers who will be exposed to the coronavirus.

An example of N-95 certified mask

“We are having to be creative because as you can imagine with a global pandemic, most of the traditional healthcare sources for some of this material has been very hard to come by,” explained Greer.

So as to not take away supplies from the medical field at this time, President of Marpac Jeff Alcalde said their team has gotten creative with filtration materials.

“So every respirator we make is another one into the medical community as opposed to pulling one away from somebody else,” said Alcalde.

“The very first criteria we have, is we have to have material that already has been tested in a lab and has a filtration spec on it,” Alcalde explained. “We don’t want to just start with T-shirts and kinda keep our fingers crossed.”

Marpac is getting creative by testing filtration materials used in things like vacuums or air conditioning units. Normally, testing and certification for N-95 masks require a long process, but local labs like Sandia National Labs and the Air Force Research Lab are helping to test materials to make sure the filtration is safe.

“We want to make sure before we hand anybody a mask that it’s as safe as the masks that they’ve been using,” said Greer.

Alcalde said he has staff making both masks, respirators, and ventilator gear, which all require different techniques and tools. “When you’re making respirators you can’t sew because it pokes holes in it, so those have to be welded,” explained Alcalde.

Alcalde said Marpac could have their first series of 500 respirator masks made by the week of April 20. He believes they can make about 5,000 respirator masks a week running 12 hours a day, five days a week.

“We see all of our healthcare facilities come together and see the community, the business community coming together for New Mexicans, I think that’s something we should all be very proud of,” Greer told KRQE News 13. Right now, Greer said their PPE inventory at Lovelace looks good, but they are having staff conserve the gear.

Marpac isn’t just making masks for Lovelace, they plan to distribute masks to healthcare workers statewide.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resources

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