The novel coronavirus pandemic has lead to a shortage in protective gear such as masks, face masks and gowns. The face shields provide an extra measure of protection and can be cleaned and reused.
LENOX, Mass. — With personal protective equipment in critical supply, Massachusetts Face Shields has brought together a network of volunteers to manufacture the plastic face guards.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a demand for PPE of all kinds that the group's founders and sisters Jess Blazejewski and Katherine Carberry believed they could help fill.
"There are a lot of reasons to be worried or fearful right now — it feels so much better to take action, even on a small level, than to just sit with the anxiety and fear," Blazejewski said in an email exchange. "Our health-care workers are especially vulnerable to transmission and they are quite literally putting their lives on the line to help patients and their families. We have the luxury of working from home and we wanted to put any extra energy into helping those in our community who don't have that luxury."
Blazewjeski, an artist who runs her own business, said they started the face shield collective at the end of March. They were both concerned about the PPE shortage and were inspired by a Facebook post.
"A local moms' Facebook group member posted that she was trying to figure out how to make face shields for her and her ER co-workers," Blazejewski said. "At the time, I had been reading article after article about the lack of PPE in hospitals across the country and had been looking for a way to contribute. That post inspired us to organize a group to make face shields to help not just one hospital, but facilities across the state."
Blazewjeski said operations started small and the Lenox natives first rallied friends and family. Their mother, Dawn, and sister Megan were brought on to the development team.
Other members of the development team included Lenox High alumni Jenna McCarthy and Tamsen Conner. Also, the group's 3D print technical adviser, Matt Coté, is the engineering teacher at Lenox High.
"In our first week, we had 1,700 requests, seven volunteers, and delivered 102 shields," Blazejewski said. "Since then every week has brought new requests, new volunteers, and new challenges (like sourcing elastic during a nationwide shortage) that have required us to pivot and find new solutions."
Carberry, a project manager, said Massachusetts Face Shields may be localized in Lenox but through the network of volunteers it has expanded throughout the country and, as of April, had more than 117 volunteers.
"It's been an interesting challenge to create a way for our development team to collaborate remotely and for our volunteers to safely assemble the shields," she said. "Our core team keeps in touch daily through Slack and uses shared spreadsheets to track all of the assembly kits. We also have weekly calls to talk through larger questions and updates.
She said they are split into two teams: the 3D print team and the assembly team. The 3D print team prints the visors and puts them into kits that include foam tape to cushion the visor and elastic or rubber bands to fasten the mask. The assembly team receives these kits and puts the masks together and gets them ready for delivery.
Carberry said a key part of the assembly process is Blazejewski's porch in Natick that is used as a central hub for supplies and assembly kit pick up and drop off.
"Our assembly volunteers are located within driving distance of Natick ... The majority of our 3D print volunteers are located in Massachusetts, but we also have some in [California, Maryland, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York and Texas] that print and ship to Natick," she said. "We've been so impressed and overwhelmed by the response of our volunteers who have happily donated time and supplies to the cause."
She said all volunteers and development team members contribute efforts unpaid and have to balance shield production with their own jobs. Any money raised goes into the production of more shields.
As of April, they have delivered more than 1,300 shields to 22 facilities. This includes Hillcrest Commons, Baystate Medical Center Emergency Department, University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, Beth Israel Deaconess, Highview of Northampton, and Visiting Angels Senior Home Care.
People can donate to Massachusetts Face Shields through the website (each shield costs $5 to make). Also, more 3D printers are welcome to join the cause.
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Biz Briefs: SABIC Donating to Local United Way to Support COVID-19 Response Efforts
SABIC, a global leader in diversified chemicals, is donating $25,000 to the Berkshire United Way to help serve the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from $1 million in monetary donations to food banks and community-based agencies in the communities where the company operates, SABIC, whose head office is based in Houston, also is donating approximately $500,000 of its products. SABIC products are used to manufacture personal protection equipment for healthcare workers and medical equipment such as ventilators, patient monitoring devices, face shields, respiratory therapy machines and diagnostic equipment.
The company, which operates the Polymer Processing Development Center in Pittsfield, Mass., also is donating face shields made with SABIC’s LEXAN polycarbonate sheet product to local police and fire departments. SABIC employees, too, are joining together to raise funds that will go to charitable organizations of their choice and the company is matching the employee contributions dollar-for-dollar.
SABIC currently operates 60 manufacturing and compounding plants in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Small business survey
The Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire has released a small business survey to assess the greatest needs of small businesses during this COVID-19 crisis. This Small Business Technical Assistance Needs Survey will help CDCSB focus professional technical assistance to businesses where they most need it for them to weather the devastating economic impact of the endemic. All businesses based in the southern Berkshires are encouraged to complete the survey by clicking here.
CDCSB is joining other western Massachusetts CDCs – Hilltown CDC, Franklin County CDC and Valley CDC (Northampton) – in seeking funding to provide free professional business assistance that can include legal and financial advice, strategic planning, access to capital, marketing, pivoting sales to a digital platform, or creating new product lines. This will significantly expand the capacity for small business assistance throughout western Mass., a central part of CDCSB’s economic development mission.
The CDCSB is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating job opportunities, promoting economic development, and building low-moderate income housing in the southern Berkshires. In collaboration with other local organizations, CDCSB has helped build over 60 affordable housing units, leveraged over $30 million in private and public funding for south Berkshire County and has a current development pipeline of 120 new affordable housing units.