SUDBURY -- Health care workers on Manitoulin Island have some new tools in their arsenal in the fight against COVID-19

On Monday, April 20, Cancov Medical Inc. delivered the first 50 of its new masks to the hospital after being inspired by a paramedic from the island.

The Toronto-based company had come across an article in a Manitoulin newspaper about a paramedic tweaking a scuba mask, and from there the idea gained traction.

A prototype was born and the company decided it was only right that the first 50 masks went to Manitoulin Island.

"This is our emergency PPE (personal protective equipment) for front-line workers," said the company's co-founder Jeremy Hannan. "I'm originally in the snorkel mask business, so I had been looking at accessories to help out with the COVID-19 pandemic."

Hannan, with help from the paramedic and a design engineer, came up with a non-invasive CPAP that he's hoping will revolutionize personal protective equipment.

The goal is to leave a tight seal around the user's face so only clean air can get in and out from the mask itself.

"This has the upper filter which is controlled to give the user only clean air and it protects any coworkers who might be working around the user because only clean air is expelled out the bottom. The top and bottom valves are both threaded valves, which are basically universal so it can be adapted for any kind of filters," said Hannan.

Mask Design Team

The company is still in the process of seeking Health Canada's approval. The mask is only about a week old and they're confident it meets all the guidelines. Hannan says they can easily ramp up production, if needed.

In the meantime, it's given doctors and nurses something to celebrate on the island.

"I'm tickled pink on this stuff, I'm quite excited and we've all been hearing about the limitations of personal protective equipment and what are we going to do about it," said Dr. Mike Bedard.

"We want to ensure that we've done everything to protect our patients as well as our staff and our community volunteers that are coming in, whether or not Health Canada has been able to keep up with us .... we're working on the principle that some protection is better than no protection," said Tim Vine, Manitoulin Health Centre vice-president and CFO.

Manitoulin Island has only had two cases of COVID-19 so far, both are related to international travel and both people have since recovered.

Health officials are currently in the midst of converting the Little Current Recreation Centre into a field hospital, in the event of a potential surge. They're hopeful the site won't be needed.