A Greeley plastics company has joined a statewide effort to fill the gaps in personal protective equipment, or PPE, for medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.
Genesis Plastics, with its offices and manufacturing facility in Greeley, was approached last week to participate in a state task force looking at shortages in masks, gloves, gowns and face shields for doctors, nurses and testing site clinicians.
Former Colorado gubernatorial candidate Noel Ginsburg is heading up the state's PPE task force.
In a matter of days, Jake Comer, Genesis Plastics' sales manager, and others at the company researched, designed and built a face shield prototype. Medical staff wear face shields over a mask to cover their eyes, nose and mouth from sick patients' coughs and sneezes.
"The face shield seemed to be the best way for us to help immediately," Comer said.
Genesis Plastics usually makes packaging and other medical products, but hasn't made a face shield prior to the current coronavirus crisis.
The prototype is made of two plastic parts. One is a halo that workers wear on their forehead, and is secured behind the ears. The second part, a thin, transparent piece of plastic attaches to the halo, and covers the face from forehead to chin.
Genesis is equipped to manufacture upward of 50,000 face shields per day, but are having to rely on local 3D printing companies to churn out the halo to allow it to be worn.
"We can produce 5,000 to 6,000 face shields an hour," Comer said. "The hard thing here is we can't 3D print 5,000 to 6,000 halos an hour. So we've joined forces with a lot of local 3-D printing companies and even manufacturers that have 3-D printing machines that are shutting down their lines and helping us manufacture these halos."
PPE shortages in Colorado, and across the country, caused federal officials to dip into a strategic supply of medical equipment and ship to hard hit areas. Colorado received tens of thousands of masks, gowns, and face shields from the national stockpile. Governor Jared Polis said the shipment would only cover about a day's worth of operations statewide.
Manufacturing and shipping medical equipment in Colorado still faces operational and logistical challenges, Comer said. The state task force has yet to establish clear ways for the new goods to enter the supply chain, and be transported from factory floor to the hospital or testing site.
"We're very proud of our efforts here, and we're very proud of being able to help the individuals out here in the state of Colorado, at least initially, in helping them feel safe and provide protection as they're out there trying to help the residents and communities," Comer said.