New 'COVID tent' created to protect doctors and other patients from the virus

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After a close call with COVID, an Edmonton ER doctor has devised a device designed to better protect health care workers and other patients from the virus.

The Aerosol Containment Tent was developed by emergency physician Dr. Marc Curial and his company, MACH 32.

The result is a simple-looking device that creates a tent around a patient's head and neck. The tent works as a containment system to stop the spread of COVID-19 particles to health-care workers and nearby patients.

Curial, who works at the Misericordia Community Hospital, got the idea to create a device early in the pandemic, when he was assisting a patient.

He hadn't shaved that day and his N95 respirator mask didn't fit properly. As he was putting a breathing tube into his patient's airway, he could feel air leaking out around the side of his mask and knew he was putting himself at risk of catching the virus.

"All I could think is, 'What am I bringing home to my wife and my two young children tonight?'" said Curial, who spoke with CBC's Edmonton AM on Thursday.

The easiest way to describe the tent is as a virus vacuum, Curial said.

It fits the movements needed to intubate a patient, and it's attached to a high-flow HVAC system that filters out more than 99 per cent of particles the size of a COVID-19 droplet, he said.

Curial said he's seen similar ideas that work as a completely sealed unit, but his design has open holes for workers to reach into, making it easier to use. The device is portable enough to be moved to wherever it may be needed.

The tent has been approved for use in Canada, Curial said, adding hospitals in several provinces are looking into it. He hopes to have it in use this week or next.

He said the feedback he's heard from other health-care workers so far is encouragement to get it in use as soon as possible.

Intubation, the process of inserting a tube into a patient's windpipe, has changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Curial said.

The procedure has presented a risk to health-care workers because it generates aerosols of tiny COVID-19 particles.

"Any time one of my colleagues or myself is out there trying to save a life during COVID, we're putting ourselves, any patients within 30 feet, and every staff member in that same vicinity, at risk of catching COVID," Curial said.

Once it's being used in Canada, Curial said the next step will be to seek approval for the tent's use in the United States, with the hope it will become a commonplace standard of care.