Nearly 1 million New Yorkers are out of work and thousands lucky enough to have jobs are enduring pay cuts because of the shutdowns forced by the COVID-19 crisis.
But some local manufacturers, engineers and business owners are channeling the economic pain into an imaginative outlet. They are stepping up to make sure doctors, nurses and support medical staff at Columbia Memorial Health in Hudson are working as safely as possible.
Purpose Co-working and Makerspace Cooperative in Philmont converted its space overnight into a factory that produces face shields using 3D printers to meet the growing demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE. The shields are used by clinical staff members who come into direct contact with COVID-19 patients and suspected cases.
Purpose member Brendan Gaesser, a volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corps for Greene County and an assistant professor of psychology at UAlbany, has been coordinating the group’s activities.
Part of the reason the shields, which cover face masks and protect eyes, nose and mouth, are so important is that while administering the COVID-19 test, a swab is inserted deep into the nose, which sometimes results in coughs that land on health care workers, Gaesser said.
The group intends to make as many shields as needed for CMH, and then reassess after the need is met.
Businesses from both sides of the river are contributing to this mission.
Local business owner and fundraising organizer Liam Singer offered to use his wide network of contacts to connect manufacturers and develop assembly protocol. Singer and his wife own Hi-Lo and the Avalon Lounge in Catskill.
Purpose member and artist Amelia Toelke had the idea to use layered sheets of laminate to produce the clear visor piece. Libraries in Chatham, Catskill, Hillsdale and Tannersville offered their stock of laminate sheets for this purpose. It takes two sheets of laminate, or an empty “pocket,” that would usually protect one piece of paper per shield. It is not as sturdy as a standard shield, but it will provide health care workers with an additional barrier and can be sanitized for repeated use.
Others are answering the call to action, from Catskill Maker Syndicate pulling an all-nighter to assemble a new machine to Nervous System Designs in Palenville running materials testing. Once an 1880s industrial factory and known as a center for the arts, Basilica Hudson was converted to a similar purpose, providing space for assembly and sanitizing in preparation for delivery.
Almost every major grocery store and hardware store in Greene and Columbia counties donated paper bags in which to pack and deliver the face shields. Cooper’s Daughter Spirits in Claverack provided disinfectant so the shields can be cleaned before they get anywhere near the hospital.
Given the health care emergency Greene and Columbia counties are facing, all of these businesses, libraries and retailers are doing remarkable work. They deserve our gratitude and our respect.