N95 mask

SIU has donated several items, including laboratory gowns, examination gloves, and face mask respirators like the one shown above, to local agencies during the health emergency. (photo provided)

April 30, 2020

SIU campus donates needed items to local health and safety agencies

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale has donated a range of items to support those on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

Laboratory gowns, face mask respirators, examination gloves and other items have found their way from various SIU departments and programs to local agencies such as the Jackson County Health DepartmentSouthern Illinois Healthcare and SIU Family Medicine, among others. SIU's Department of Public Safety has coordinated most of the donations, and Public Safety Director Ben Newman said SIU has an important role to play in the well-being of the area during the current health emergency.

“Personal protective equipment is in short supply, and there is an international demand for it. Supplying health care workers and first responders with essential equipment benefits us all,” Newman said. “SIU is a regional partner to many in the pandemic response effort. We will share resources and equipment. The need is real, and it is now.”

Emergency plans activated early

At the start of the emergency, SIU activated its Emergency Operations Center, also known as its all-hazards team, Newman said, which addresses threats to the health and safety of members of the SIU campus and community. The EOC works in coordination with SIH, Jackson County Health Department and others agencies in responding to emergencies.

With that in place, the SIU faculty and staff began doing their part. There are many examples of SIU reaching out in this way.

Digging deep to help

The School of Biological Sciences, for instance, donated 150 medical gowns that found their way to the Jackson County Health Department and 40 badly needed N95 respirators to Carbondale Memorial Hospital. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry also donated 20 N95s to Jackson County Health Department.

The Department of Public Safety also has received from various university departments and subsequently donated thousands of latex examination gloves, at least 100 N95 respirators, some 50 surgical masks, 13 pairs of safety glasses, and four face shields.

SIU also stepped up to provide a chemical needed to fit-test N95 respirators when the local supply ran low.

In addition, Lingguo Bu, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, with support from the SIU STEM Education Research Center, has delivered dozens of 3D printed face shields to SIH. He is one of several faculty and students using 3D printing technology housed at the university to manufacture the shields in the face of growing demand.

Investment in the region

Gary Kinsel, SIU vice chancellor for research, said PPE isn’t just important for minimizing transmission of the virus in the general population, but also is essential for the health and safety of our front-line medical providers.

“They are heroically putting their lives on the line every day as they deal with infected and potentially infected patients,” Kinsel said. “As an institution, SIU has always invested itself in the well-being of the Southern Illinois region and is proud to play this important role as a supporter of our regional medical service providers.”