Even with more people receiving vaccines and the CDC further relaxing its guidelines around travel, proper mask protocol still has to be followed in order to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. Therefore, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have put forth the “Mask Innovation Challenge,” turning to the people of the United States and seeing who can come up with the next breed of masks to that will further prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
From now until April 21 at 05:00 PM ET, citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. are invited to participate in Phase 1 of the challenge, where they will be asked to come up with reimagined designs that people are likelier to find comfortable while still adhering to mandated safety requirements.
“We know that properly and consistently worn face masks help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory infections,” said Mrs. Nikki Bratcher-Bowman, Acting Assistant Secretary within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “but many people are reluctant to wear them for a variety of reasons.” Some of those reasons cited included “breathability, comfort…, fogged glasses…, inability to read facial expressions, difficulty speaking through the face covering, and difficulty finding masks to fit facial features.”
Winners of the first phase are eligible to receive as much as $10,000 towards creating their designs, and success at this stage earns winners preferential consideration for the next phase.
Phase 2 of the challenge (Proof-of-Concept) is where entrants will have to present functional porotypes. However, details of this stage will not be released until the winners of the first step are announced, and up to $400,000 will be split among a maximum of five (5) entrants if their masks make the final cut.
The entire contest is scheduled to run through the end of September, and it may be extended depending on how results turn out. “With this mask challenge, we want to get people across the country involved in developing new masks that are both effective and comfortable,” Mrs. Bratcher-Bowman continued. “This will help us control Covid-19 and be better prepared for future public health emergencies.”
Visit https://www.challenge.gov/challenge/mask-innovation-challenge/ to learn more about how you can enter the challenge, and you can email DRIVeComments@hhs.gov if you have any questions.