SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Volunteers at the University of Rhode Island (URI) are hard at work refurbishing sleep apnea machines, which will be used as supplemental respiratory equipment in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

URI has teamed up with, led by Alex Hornstein in Providence, and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to collect unused or extra CPAP or BiPAP machines.

Hornstein said his organization is made up of 60 volunteers who are coordinating with doctors around the world to collect the masks and research ways that they can be used as supplementary equipment to treat COVID-19 patients in area hospitals.

“It’s amazing how friends, neighbors and talented strangers around the world have quickly come together to rise to this great challenge that faces us all,” Hornstein said. “Our tight-knit community in the nation’s smallest state has been a great asset, allowing us to quickly and effectively reach and work with key COVID-19 responders across our state.”

Hornstein is asking any Rhode Islander with an unused or extra CPAP or BiPAP machine to donate it. He estimates that 9,000 machines are available to be refurbished in Rhode Island.

Anyone who owns an unused or extra sleep apnea machine can drop it off at one of the designated collection centers, which will be housed inside designated fire departments across the state.

The machine will then be transported to URI, where technical volunteers will sanitize, test and refurbish the machines for reuse.

Tao Wei, lead electric engineer on the project, says he is thrilled by the volunteer reponse.

“I’m very glad that we can all contribute to make this happen. I’m just deeply touched by the amount of students and graduate students who are jumping in and say we want to help,” added Wei.

Where to drop off your machine »

The university said all refurbished machines will be distributed to hospitals and healthcare facilities in Rhode Island as needed, as well as other places in need.

“Our participation in this extraordinary venture exemplifies the central mission of the university – to be of service to Rhode Island and its citizens and to bring our expertise and ingenuity to our community and the world,” URI President David Dooley said in a statement.

Those who plan on donating a machine must ensure the following steps are completed before it is dropped off:

  • Remove any parts that have been in contact with a person (masks, hoses, etc.).
  • Discard any water remaining in the unit’s humidifier.
  • Wash your hands and wipe down all surfaces with an unscented disinfecting spray or wipe.
  • Place the machine in an unscented garbage bag and tie it closed.
  • Wash your hands again and write the machine’s information (machine type, make, model) on a piece of paper and tape it to the bag.

All machines must be owned by the person who donated it and not by their insurer. Anyone who owns a machine but has experienced symptoms, or lives with someone who has been sic, within the last 14 days is urged to not bring their machine to a collection site.