Hugo Future Imperfect Slim

Gillian Chu

Shield the Bay

Human-Centered Design Response to COVID-19

Gillian Chu

3 minute read

We provide face shields for Bay Area healthcare workers, focusing on institutions ignored by large- scale sourcing and donation efforts. Face shields are a critical component of personal protective equipment (PPE), providing essential barrier protection from SARS-CoV-2 containing aerosols and droplets for healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 patients.

Recognizing the need of these institutions, we launched Shield the Bay in March 2020, crowdfunded $16,000 to provide 20,000 face shields. Our initial partner is Highland Hospital, a county hospital in Oakland and the primary trauma center in Alameda County, with the busiest emergency department in the United States. Our product is the primary face shield in use by nurses and certified nursing assistants in a number of Highland COVID units.

Highland Hospital in Oakland is the largest hospital in the Alameda Health System, where 65% of patients are African American and Latino, more than 50% are uninsured, and one-third are on Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program). This hospital in particular has been hard-hit during the pandemic, and is under-resourced in part due to the enormous wealth disparity in Alameda County.

Our face shield consists of a reusable visor, and cost-effective, easily replaceable transparent shields. Our human-centered design process has simultaneously engaged hospital administration and nurses. Four rounds of prototyping and testing in clinical environments resulted in a differentiated product in a crowded marketplace. Our face shield integrates with clinical workflows, gives nurses more confidence in safety compared to other donated and purchased products, is comfortable for long periods of use, eliminates the need for disinfection, is more cost effective per use than even the most basic alternatives, and results in less environmental waste.

Today, Alameda County has the highest number of COVID cases and deaths in northern California. COVID has exacerbated the scarcity of supply for hospitals that serve less affluent communities and communities of color: a majority of nursing staff and patients are African American, Latino, Filipino, and mixed race.

Sustained demand for various PPE will persist for 12-18 months, roughly doubling as traditional health services are restored. In this environment, our goal is to catalyze a new marketplace, engaging various small local businesses in manufacturing our proven product design and connecting them with the procurement arms of healthcare systems. We will build lasting community resilience by helping Bay Area health systems to safely serve communities most in need while establishing an alternative means of producing high-quality PPE that supports local businesses.

We are a collaborative with deep professional expertise in healthcare, industrial and user-centered design, and health equity: private sector design-manufacturing partners COSMO and Newman Design; scientists, faculty and students from UC Berkeley’s Colleges of Chemistry, Public Health, and Engineering; and infection control and system logistics leadership at Bay Area county emergency response systems.

I’ve been working with Jessica Granderson (Ph.D), Sean Miller (M.F.A., COSMO), Catherine Newman (Ph.D, Newman Design), Jaspal Sandhu (Ph.D, UC Berkeley School of Public Health) and Michael Zuerch (Ph.D, UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry).

You can find out more and/or help support us towards our goal at this gofundme.

A huge huge thank you to all of my friends and family who have supported us towards this goal. Special thanks to Blockchain @ Berkeley for matching student donations and making a large donation of their own! <3

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Hi, I'm Gillian. I'm a PhD student in Computer Science at Princeton University, specializing in computational biology. Right now, I'm thinking about graph theory, algorithm design, probabilistic models and evolution.