Local Businesses Contribute to Protective Gear for Healthcare Workers
With supplies of protective gear dwindling, efforts on the state and local level are ramping up to secure much needed protective gear for healthcare workers on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hospital gowns, gloves, faces masks and face shields are just a few examples of the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to stop the small particles of the virus from infecting healthy individuals.
Upon hearing about the need for PPE, two local companies separately modified their business operations: one to start producing a frame for face shields, and the other, a metal nose piece for face masks.
At Centerbrook Architects and Planners in Essex, the firm’s 3D printers, typically used to better visualize the shape of a structure, are producing multi-colored resin frames for face shields.
Industrial designer Patrick McCauley, who is working off a design for face shields recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), devotes a portion of his workday to the project, producing 15 a day.
Once completed, a handful of employees make deliveries to area hospitals in need of the frames.
Centerbrook Architects and Planners Principal Chad Floyd says that as designers, they find the ability to contribute a tangible item to the invisible threat of the virus particularly rewarding.
“It became a focus for us, an exciting and fulfilling way to just do what we can to help those that are out there in the hospitals, putting themselves [out there] every day, at great risk to their own health, to care for the rest of us,” said Floyd.
At Chapco, Inc., a metal manufacturer in Chester, President Brian Weinstein was alerted by a customer about the need for metal nose pieces used in face masks. Weinstein took to Facebook in late March, offering to donate the pieces for anyone who needs them.
He was overwhelmed with the response.
“We ended up having to shut the post off because we received requests for over 60,000 pieces by 350 people in 38 states,” said Weinstein.
He says the pieces take less than two seconds to make on the production equipment housed in the company’s 38,000 square-foot facility.
Weinstein and his family have been fulfilling orders at home, so that his 50-member production and assembly crew can focus on the company’s essential manufacturing operations.
“It’s really been a project of my family,” said Weinstein. “I’ve been taking the pieces home and between me, my wife, and kids, we’re printing out labels and shipping them. That’s been the crazy, time-consuming part.”
Orders are shipped along with a personal note to a variety of individuals and organizations. They include first responders and “everybody from healthcare facilities to individuals to sewing clubs to quilting guilds,” said Weinstein.
The company has received favorable replies.
“We’re getting a lot of responses thanking us and [saying] ‘God bless us’,” said Weinstein. “It’s just great. I think at this time, if you’re a small business and you can help, it is your time to do that. I am happy we were able to do that.”
Weinstein joins a host of other small to mid-size manufacturing firms across Connecticut who are stepping up to “retool their business to do whatever they can to help out, especially for personal protective equipment,” said Eric Brown, vice president for manufacturing policy and outreach for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA).
Brown’s office, along with the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development and the Connecticut Hospital Association, are working together to match manufacturing capabilities with the needs of the health care community.
“It’s complex, but it’s worth doing because the need is so urgent and the capabilities are there,” said Brown.
In the coming week, their efforts will become more efficient as the data now compiled in spreadsheets moves to a more formal system on the CBIA home page.
The online aspect will “make it more of a streamlined process so that we can get the details of the specs and what the needs are, putting the supply and demand together more quickly,” said Brown.
As for Weinstein’s contribution to PPE, Brown says, “he’s obviously a great small manufacturer in the state and this is only further evidence of [it].”