FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH)– Running out of protective equipment like masks and face shields is a worry across the board at hospitals.

At UConn Health, they are in good shape and 40,000 masks were just discovered in storage, but they were not usable until some teams of union members got creative with a fix.

Ingenuity and action on display by some UConn Health employees. Members of AFT, UHP, GEU and AAUP unions have been collaborating in order to come up with a plan B and C on their protective equipment “if needed.”

First, a mask frame to make their unusable back up supply safe.

“If they’re dealing with a patient that could be Covid positive and they’re wearing a mask that could be loose fitting and has leaks around the sides, they’re putting their health at risk. But when we put this exoskeleton or frame over the mask this applies pressure to the mask, so that it’s adequately sealed to our faces,” said Dr. Michael Baldwin, Uconn Health Radiologist.

That provides adequate protection and the frames are cleanable.

It started when health care professionals discovered that Uconn Health intern Chris Wiles had created that plastic frame and was making them with a 3D printer.

Doctor Baldwin also showed masks made of readily available OR room fabric.

“We’ve been showing in a lab at the UConn Storrs campus that this performs, actually we think better, than a commercially available n95 mask,” said Baldwin.

Middlefield’s “Wepco” is making them 10,000 face shields.

And meet Uconn Health Medical Assistant Dawn Humphries. She made hundreds of snack and toiletry bags for her co-workers and rounded up a few thousand n95 masks, donated from New England Industrial Supply in Newington. She wants her co-workers to feel loved.

“I’ve seen in the hallways that they just feel broken, and I want then to know they are not broken. We think about them all the time and that we’re there to help them as much as we can,” said Humphries.

And UConn Health has associations with some public school systems like Farmington and Colchester, so families with 3D printers in some towns are now a small army, making those mask frames for UConn Health.

If you’d like to help make more 3D mask frames, email them at