A team of engineers at Pennsylvania State University, including faculty and students, has been working on a solution to protect staff at drive-through COVID-19 testing sites.
The team, working separately in different locations around the university, designed a booth that provides a barrier between the individuals being tested and the person conducting the test. This approach can make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, unnecessary, making work more comfortable for nurses and reducing the need for items that are currently in short supply.
The device resembles a parking attendant’s booth and features insulation from the outside, a ventilation and heating system, lab-like rubber gloves to interact with those tested, and a sanitation system to clean the outside of the gloves.
“The idea was to design and construct a scaled-up version of what engineers and scientists call a ‘reversible glovebox or isolation glovebox,’” said Naveen Muthumanickam, one of the team members developing the new booth, in a press release. “Our version would need to accommodate a nurse who stands inside a booth and uses the reversible gloves to collect nasal swabs from patients outside the booth, thus preventing spread of the virus through contact.”
After each test, the patient sample is dropped into a container below the gloves. Within the container are jets that spray a sanitizing liquid. The nurse simply inserts the gloves into the container and presses a pedal on the floor to cover the gloves with the sanitizer. This helps to make sure the gloves do not transmit the disease. The interior of the booth is made of materials that are easy to sanitize and that can handle the sanitizing chemicals.
The current prototype was designed by the team using online group productivity tools, while individual team members were responsible for building different parts of the booth and transporting those parts to the person doing the final assembly. Testing will soon be taking place to help identify any issues with the new booth, including ergonomics, to make sure that it can be safely used for long periods of time.
“We will be able to see if nurses should sit or stand, if the arms are placed in a comfortable way … as well as how much time nurses have in between doing tests that would inform the positing of their arms,” said Felecia Davis, an architecture professor at Penn State.