Teller County Introduces New Device to Protect First Responders From Coronavirus Infection

Protecting our first responders. Greg Couch, Operations Commander of the Teller County Sheriff’s Department, addressed the media and many community leaders last week during the unveiling of a device that could protect first responders when handling potential coronavirus inflicted patients. Once again, local officials maintained that Teller County is ready to win the war against pandemic crisis at whatever cost. Photos by Tommy Allen

~ by Trevor Phipps ~

As a part of the proactive steps Teller County has taken thus far to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare officials have unveiled a new anti-COVID-19 medical device, designed locally, that could help rescue workers from contracting the deadly virus.

Last week, a press conference was held that explained and introduced the newly invented piece of equipment that is said to prevent first responders from contracting the coronavirus.

 The new device consists of a plastic box that is made in Denver out of a clear plastic. The box has three holes in it and it is designed to be placed over the head of a coronavirus victim when the patient is transported in an ambulance.

The clear plastic unit sits over the head of the patient and two of the holes are for the first responder to reach into and incubate the patient. The other hole is connected to a hose that runs to the exhaust fan already built into the ambulance.

According to multiple local leaders and UCHealth officials, when implemented the box can prevent viruses from being spread from the victim to the first responder that shows up on the scene. The exhaust fan provides negative air pressure so that when an infected patient coughs during the intubation process, all of the germs put into the air get contained within the box and then pumped outside the ambulance.

According to UCHealth’s Southern Colorado representative Matt Angelidis, the development of the device was a successful collaboration between multiple agencies. “Most of you are aware that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which means that it is transmitted in the saliva and breathing particles of our patients,” Angelidis said. “And most of the patients that we are providing emergency services to are suffering from respiratory illnesses, and they need support from our EMS crews and hospital teams to help them breathe. And as a part of doing that, they spread the virus and infection to our health care professionals. The integration of this box and our care algorithms will enable our providers to safely help our patients breathe and maintain good respiratory function. I’m excited that UCHealth has recognized that our colleagues in a pre-hospital setting are at risk from contracting the virus while they help patients breathe and have worked with them to develop, integrate, and disperse this box to protect them.”

The box that was designed in Teller County is planned to be used by various emergency medical service providers across the state. Currently, the county has 14 that they will soon put into action and several more will be distributed to EMS providers in other counties such as El Paso and Park.

The cost of each box is close to $500, but according to Teller County’s Office of Emergency Management Director Don Angell, the cost is well worth it. “The units themselves will pay for themselves,” Angell explained. “All it takes is one person that does not come down with the coronavirus. I can’t put a dollar amount on it, I will just say that if we can postpone, if we can save one person from being exposed, it’s worth every penny it ever cost.”

According to the Teller Regional Medical Director Dr. Jeremy DeWall, there is not enough time for the device to get FDA approved, but the device works well to remove any harmful particles that get put into the air by a patient by removing them out of the interior of the ambulance. “We are trying to make the best effort using reasonable logic and judgment to try to keep our providers safe,” Dr. DeWall said. “And I agree with Don that if one provider can stay out on the streets and keep helping citizens in our communities from the eastern plains all the way to Park County, it makes all of this worth it. We are really grateful that UCHealth can help with this because it does get tough to afford especially for small EMS agencies because it is not cheap for them. They already have people working overtime and they are already dealing with a lot of extra stuff and they are having to pay a lot more money for medications that were previously cheaper and there is a lot more PPE (personal protective equipment) that needs to be purchased. So, it’s really great to have a partner that is willing to get these to them and not have a cost associated with it.”

During the press conference, local officials demonstrated how the box would be used with a dummy. During the demonstration a first responder dressed in coveralls, a respirator, gloves, and safety glasses, showed how EMS providers can use the holes in the box and safely put in a breathing tube in to an infected patient without the risk of contracting the virus themselves.