The Feds Fell Short on PPE, So Everyday Americans Stepped Up

By: - April 9, 2020 12:00 am

East Hamilton Middle-High School eLab specialist Patrick Daverson, right, and Michael Stone, a director of innovative learning, check 3D printers at the school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The school district collected 3D printers and set up a 3D-printing farm to produce face shields — among the similar efforts happening in schools, colleges and private homes across the country. C.B. Schmelter/ Chattanooga Times Free Press via The Associated Press

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States are desperate for medical supplies, governors are pleading with the federal government to secure dwindling lifesaving equipment, and the number of novel coronavirus cases continues to rise nationally.

But emerging from this crisis has been a widespread effort by small businesses, university labs and everyday Americans to create personal protective equipment for vulnerable health care professionals who are keeping patients alive and fighting the contagion.

In Illinois, many manufacturers are retooling to make essential medical supplies for local hospitals: N95 masks, hand sanitizer and secure packaging for sending COVID-19 testing samples.

With the encouragement of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Biotechnology Association are leading an effort to streamline manufacturing and vet companies for health care providers. Hundreds of companies have reached out, said Mark Denzler, the manufacturing group’s president and CEO.

“It’s a wartime-like effort,” he said.

There are countless examples of collaboration between businesses and medical professionals, from a Kansas brewery making thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer, to a university lab in Wyoming 3D printing face masks to a small business in Texas making ventilation devices.

“It’s been inspiring to see the number of local manufacturers help local hospitals and communities,” said Priya Bathija, vice president for strategic initiatives at the American Hospital Association. “We’re seeing a lot of interest from people who don’t typically produce personal protective equipment.”

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.