SVHEC R&D Center supports local effort to make aerosol boxes for medical staff treating COVID-19 patients

As the nation continues its battle against the COVID-19 novel Coronavirus, small communities are coming together to support local healthcare providers. When South Boston urologist (Urology of Virginia) and Chief of Surgery (Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital), Dr. Christi Hughart, learned of aerosol boxes being used to protect healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients, she knew she had to make these available in Halifax County.

R&D center making supplies during COVID-19 crisis
R&D Center Technician Chris Walker assembling one of the aerosol boxes.

The aerosol box was designed by Taiwainese doctor Dr. Hsien Yung Lai as a low-cost method of protecting medical staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. Made of plexiglass, the aerosol box covers the patient’s head and helps to contain the aerosolized body fluids that providers are exposed to when intubating a patient. Intubation is a process where tubes are placed down a patient’s throat to help them breath, and is critical for any patient in respiratory distress. The aerosol box has two holes on one side that allows the physician to insert his or her hands to perform the intubation procedure. Dr. Lai placed his design and photos of the aerosol box online, to be available to all free of charge ( 

Recognizing that the aerosol boxes could be used by local Emergency Medical Service (EMS), emergency rooms, or intensive care units, Dr. Hughart set up a Facebook donation campaign to raise money to make the boxes locally. Within a short time of making the Facebook post, Dr. Hughart received monetary donations from Cindy Cole, FNP, Pam Eakes, Leigh Edwards, Scotty Felton, Kelly Hill, Dr. Christi Hughart/Christian de Guzman, Gail Long, Puryear Race Parts, Dr. and Mrs. Shibeshi, Mary Thompson, and Shirley Wood. “Fastenal donated materials, and there were many other offers of donations even after we’d raised enough money. The response was great,” said Dr. Hughart. 

When Christopher Walker, SVHEC Research & Development (R&D) Technician, heard about the project he knew this was the perfect project for the agency’s R&D Center. “I knew this would be a great thing for the R&D Center to be involved with, and that it would be great for us to use our machines and talents to help the community,” Walker stated. 

The SVHEC’s R&D Center specializes in product design and development, and has the ability to prototype and manufacture products. After speaking with Dr. Hughart, and using Dr. Lian’s photos as a reference, the R&D staff, Jerry Elliott, Lily Toombs, and Walker, quickly set about producing the aerosol boxes. R&D Center staff created a computer aided design (CAD) file, wrote the program to produce the aerosol box’s components on R&D’s waterjet machining center, and assembled the components. After creating an initial prototype, that was approved by Dr. Hughart, SVHEC’s R&D Center staff set about producing 11 aerosol boxes. 

“I just felt in my heart it was a good thing for everyone involved. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep our doctors and nurses on the front line of this terrible virus a little safer,” Walker said.