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Red Cross volunteer

Around the world, medical teams and researchers have been scrambling to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, from the front lines of dealing with the sick to the labs working on potential vaccines. Meanwhile, there are roles being worked out for high-tech systems including robots, supercomputers and 3D printers.

One of the most basic tools has been the thermometer. A key indicator of whether someone might be infected with the virus is a fever. Here, a Red Cross volunteer uses a digital thermometer to measure patients' temperatures in a pre-triage tent outside the hospital in Corigliano-Rossano, Italy, on March 11.

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Marine Corps medic

Some thermometers allow a bit of distance from the patient. Here, kitted out with protective gear including a face shield, surgical mask and gloves, a field medical technician with the II Marine Expeditionary Force does coronavirus presceening of Marines returning from deployment overseas at the Cherry Point air station in North Carolina on March 24.

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Infrared thermometer

A variation on temperature-taking technology is the infrared thermometer, which shows hot zones on the body. This one was in use at an outdoor screening station for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg, Russia, on March 20.

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'Morning check' robot

In Changsha, China, local technology companies have designed "morning check" robots to greet employees returning to work. The robots can test body temperature, record data, give feedback and disinfect hands, easing the burden on staff to conduct checks for symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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Triage tent

It's vital for medical staffers to be outfitted in personal protective equipment, or PPE. The novel coronavirus, which emerged in December in Wuhan, China, is highly contagious, a danger both to the general populace and the health care workers needed to care for them. Hence setups like this triage tent in use March 20 at Boston Medical Center, where patients can be evaluated before admission and treatment.

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At work in the ICU

Medical workers wearing protective gear, including face shields, look after someone in the intensive care unit handling coronavirus patients at Erasme Hospital in Brussels on March 25. While some people who get diagnosed with COVID-19 exhibit only mild symptoms, for many the disease has required prolonged treatment in an ICU.

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Ventilator at the ready

At the Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital in Ashdod, Israel, on March 16, the director of the epidemics service checks the control panel of a medical ventilator. The high-tech gear was on standby for patients with severe respiratory distress, when COVID-19 has filled their lungs with fluid to the point at which they can't breathe on their own.

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Intensive care bed

This is an intensive care unit at the University Hospital Dresden in Germany, as seen on March 13. On the left side of the bed is a heart-lung machine, on top are the monitors for vital functions and to the right are a ventilator and infusion equipment.

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Liquid oxygen tank

At Samaritan's Purse Emergency Field Hospital in Cremona, Italy, on March 20, workers get ready to unload a 5,000-gallon liquid oxygen tank for use in the intensive care unit.

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Drive-thru testing

Overcoming the pandemic requires determining who has the coronavirus and who doesn't, and that means testing. Here, a health care worker in full protective attire takes a sample via nasal swab from a person at a drive-thru coronavirus testing lab set up at Somerville Hospital in Somerville, Massachusetts, on March 18.

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Throat culture

Samples are also taken by throat swab, as here at a testing site in West Palm Beach, Florida, on March 16.

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COVID-19 testing kits

COVID-19 collection kits for testing stand ready in the microbiology Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on March 18.

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COVID-19 blood sample

This test tube contains a blood sample from a patient who tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus at Amphia Hospital in Breda, Netherlands. As of March 20, the hospital was carrying out between 400 and 500 tests a day for suspected cases of the virus.

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Lab test

A lab technician at Amphia Hospital performs a test for samples taken from patients suspected of having the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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Processing swab tests

A lab worker tries to isolate the presence of coronavirus during processing of swab tests in the molecular biology laboratory of the Ospedale Niguarda in Milan, Italy, on March 5.

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Test results

A computer screen shows the results of a coronavirus test in the Ospedale Niguarda molecular biology lab.

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Protein structure

Because this coronavirus is so new, there isn't yet a vaccine for it. That remains months away, after a progression of trials to determine both effectiveness and product safety. But work is already underway toward finding the right chemical compound. Here, on March 20, this computer screen at Novavax labs in Rockville, Maryland, shows a computer model showing the protein structure of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. (For more, see Coronavirus medicine: The vaccines and drugs in development to treat COVID-19.)

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Respiratory virus

These vaccine researchers at Novavax are looking at a sample of a respiratory virus...

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Protein samples

...while this researcher is studying protein samples.

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Summit supercomputer aisle

Supercomputers are also being enlisted in the efforts to discover cures for COVID-19. Pictured here is IBM's Summit, the world's fastest supercomputer today. It's already been used to screen 8,000 chemical compounds on a search for medicine that could thwart the infectious capabilities of COVID-19 medicine, and researchers in that effort at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee have recommended 77 drug compounds for experimental testing.

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Carbon L1 3D printers

Meanwhile, 3D printers offer a potential way to quickly produce items like face shields needed in large numbers. The L1 3D printer from startup Carbon can create a lightweight, springy midsole for an Adidas running shoe in less than a half hour, and the company plans to send face shield designs to its network of customers who've bought its 3D printers. It's also working on nasal swab designs. Most 3D printers today are best suited to making plastic parts, not the cloth or filters used in face masks.

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N95 mask

For protection against the coronavirus, not just any face mask will do. Doctors and emergency workers strive to use N95 masks, which incorporate a respirator and fit the face snugly. N95 masks are designed to block at least 95% of very small particles. But these masks have been in very short supply, and the CDC recommends that the general public not use them, but instead rely on other measures such as handwashing and social distancing. And please, don't try to make your own.

Here, a food delivery worker in Cardiff, Wales, is seen wearing an N95 mask on March 8.

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First responder field kits

On March 11, a police lieutenant in Los Angeles helps assemble personal safety kits consisting of an N95 mask, work gloves and nitrile gloves for LAPD first responders, to be used for their protection from exposure.

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Disinfection robot

And in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began late last year, a remote-controlled robot gets put to use to disinfect a residential area on March 16.

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