California soldier uses civilian skills to improve respirators for COVID-19 response

U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Hall, Joint Forces Headquarters senior medical liaison, displays a respirator that has been modified to prevent COVID-19 from entering the environment or a ventilator Apr. 03, 2020, at the Emergency Medical Services Authority, Sacramento, California. The California National Guard is supporting the California Emergency Management Authority in helping protect the safety and health of citizens. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Forest Decker)
April 20, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Hall, with the California National Guard’s Joint Forces Headquarters, combined her civilian and military skill sets to troubleshoot and improve the mechanics of respirators that are being refurbished for California’s COVID-19 response. By procuring and fitting custom parts she helped to expand the state’s inventory of ventilators during the pandemic.

“I came on initially as a medical liaison between the California Emergency Medical Services Authority and the National Guard. I work with a lot of filters over in Anesthesia and in the Respiratory Department at the Veteran’s Affairs office. I went to Anesthesia and got a mask because EMSA needed a non-vented mask, because the mask that they had was vented, meaning air will escape.

I went and obtained the non-vented mask from surgery and a Humid-Vent, which takes some moisture away from the patient and gives some moisture back – so that their membranes don’t dry out. After that, I made calls to respiratory at the VA and I explained that I needed a respirator that would stand-up against the COVID-19 virus, also one that wouldn’t allow any air to expel into the room, infecting someone else. I spoke with respiratory and they gave me an HME filter, which is heat and moisture exchange filter. It allowed us to hook-up their machine to their one-way valve. When a person took a breath, inhaled and exhaled, it went out into the environment. The exhaled air then went through the filter, capturing the virus, without infecting anybody else in the room. From the VA, I brought these filters and masks to EMSA and they were able to get their machine to work. It is now a functioning machine.”