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Weekly COVID-19 Update: Health Agencies Launch Mask Innovation Challenge, Optimistic Outlook Podcast Hones in on Technology's Impact on Reopening America, and More


The ANSI Federation and standardization community are stepping up with guidance, resources, and initiatives to support public health, safety, and infrastructure during the COVID-19 outbreak. Suggestions for news items may be submitted to [email protected]. All submissions are published at ANSI's discretion.

Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition Aims to Prevent Future Pandemics through Global Partnership

Abbott's Pandemic Defense Coalition has joined forces with global centers of excellence to identify, analyze, and test emerging viral threats quickly to help stop emerging pandemics in their tracks. The coalition is a first-of-its-kind global scientific and public health collaboration, with partners ranging in expertise from scientific research, public health, and diagnostic testing to address new viral threats before the potential for spread.

A recent Abbott article, "How Do We Help Prevent the Next Pandemic? Collaboration," offers a step-by-step process on how the partnership works. The healthcare company's scientists are monitoring COVID-19 variants, and collecting and analyzing samples from around the world to look for mutations that may impact the function of the virus. Abbott explains that the ability to have global experts simultaneously use their expertise to identify, develop testing, and enact public health guidelines in response to a viral threat could save time needed to help prevent a pandemic.

The company emphasizes that its work expands beyond COVID-19 research, as it is looking into preventing the next viral risk.

"Our goal is to help prevent history from repeating itself," said Gavin Cloherty, Ph.D., head of infectious disease research at Abbott. "This Abbott-led elite global network of virus hunters is already working to help stop viral threats in their tracks."

Access the recent article and two brief videos about the collaboration.

In other COVID-19 news, Abbott recently published an article highlighting the work of its female scientists and engineers on the frontlines–from labs, offices, and manufacturing facilities–as its teams develop critical testing technologies to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Department of Health and Human Services and NIOSH Launch Mask Innovation Challenge

In order to accelerate the development of the next generation of masks to help prevent disease transmission, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have partnered to launch the Mask Innovation Challenge: Building Tomorrow’s Mask

This competition is designed to support the development of mask designs that meet defined performance standards while also overcoming barriers to use.

"Many public health agencies worldwide are encouraging their citizens to wear masks when in public spaces in order to reduce the spread of infectious respiratory diseases," HHS reports. "However, there remain notable barriers that reduce overall mask usage." Some of the issues with facemasks, also known as "barrier face coverings," include dermatitis with prolonged wear, physical discomfort, fogging of eyeglasses, and difficulty communicating. Moreover, some masks on the market tout unconfirmed protective capabilities that lack scientific evidence to support such claims.

Launching on March 31, the challenge will seek to alleviate these issues, and improve the comfort, utility, and protective capabilities of these products. The challenge will run for a minimum of 6 months, in two phases, to focus on design and proof-of-concept, followed by a possible third phase. Up to 10 Phase 1 winners will receive up to $10K each. Up to 5 winners will be selected to split a $400,000 prize purse in the second phase.

Access rules, judging criteria, and find out how to apply on the HHS website.

Siemens Optimistic Outlook Podcast Covers How Technology Supports Reopenings

Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton examines what it takes to bring back in-person learning across schools, colleges, and universities in the latest episode of Siemens' The Optimistic Podcast. The broadcast, featuring Molloy College president Dr. James Lentini and Siemens experts, covers Siemens air purification and technology, and how it will help Molloy College to expand in-person learning this year.

The podcast, launched in 2020, and hosted by Humpton, includes commentary by experts in their respective fields and hones in on how digital tools can spur innovation, transform industries and the built environment, and help develop a more sustainable, resilient community.

Another recent episode, featuring Stephen Orban, general manager, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Data Exchange, covers the cloud’s potential for helping organizations thrive in the new normal, and more.

Access episodes of The Optimistic Outlook podcast via Siemens site.

See more ANSI member efforts in the ANSI COVID-19 Resource Webpage Highlighting Standardization Community Response


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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