Two weeks ago, Michael Elliott, chief operating officer of the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Foundation (SCVMC) – the nonprofit fundraising arm of the Santa Clara County public health system – released a Tweeter asking for “thousands” of face shields to help healthcare workers across the country.
“I had a feeling in my mind that there must be people in Silicon Valley who could do it,” Elliott told CBS News. “People think of Silicon Valley and you certainly think of the big heavyweights, but there is also this legacy of being a manufacturing center of people who like to build things and tinker with things,” he said. added.
On Monday, volunteers from Maker Nexus, a non-profit organization in the Bay Area that provides members with access to tools such as laser cutters and 3D printers to produce objects for practical and artistic purposes, delivered the first set of 500 reusable face shields to the SCVMC.
Elliott said Maker Nexus, which he described as a “modern version of a cool carpentry shop,” was the first organization to be able to produce face shields in large quantities and at a level of quality that could be used daily by health care providers. .
Maker Nexus operates a space in Sunnyvale where members take classes and use tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and vinyl cutters to produce whatever they want. Organization co-founder Jim Schrempp told CBS News that due to social distancing guidelines, the space has been closed and “the equipment is just idle.”
After seeing Elliott’s tweet, one of the organization’s members started working on a prototype using a design by a 3D printer manufacturer in the Czech Republic. It took several iterations and consultations with the doctors and nurses of the CMVSS before approving a model that met medical standards.
“We have 3D printers ourselves, but we have also appealed to the community,” said Schrempp. “The real story is not just our 3D printers. We have 300 people with 3D printers at home who manufacture the 3D printed parts. “
Face shields – which are made of thick plastic sheeting, an elastic band and foam – can be washed and reused. Schrempp said he has enough materials to make at least 3,000 face shields, but the goal is to produce up to 3,000 a day.
One of the components currently in short supply is the plastic used to make the face mask. It is similar to the plastic used for water bottles, and Schrempp hopes to find contacts in companies that make water and soda bottles so that he can request a donation of the materials.
“They’re using this stuff in millions of rolls and if they could probably give us the end of one of those rolls, that would be all we need for a month,” said Schrempp.
Race to manufacture and distribute personal protective equipment
Face shields – in addition to N95 masks, coats and gloves – are part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) that doctors and nurses desperately need to treat patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. The government’s emergency PPE stock is almost depleted, according to an official from the Department of Homeland Security.
Dr. Sanjay Kurani, medical director of the SCVMC, told CBS News that based on his conversations, nurses could go through at least 15 sets of PPE per day per patient. Some nurses can see up to 30 patients per day, which means that one nurse can use 450 sets in one day.
Kurani said health care workers are “used to taking care of patients who may have communicable diseases”, but added that the fear of lacking protective equipment persists.
“Many people think, are we going to have the supply chain through our regular suppliers? Kurani asked. “Well, we now have the supply chain across our community, which is just a dose of energy and a dose of improved morale for our staff. “
Health workers “are not alone”
On Wednesday afternoon, Elliott and Kurani went to the Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale to meet Schremmp for a tour of the facilities and to thank the volunteers who helped produce the face shields.
Elliot said it is important to let the front line fighters know that when they care for the patients, the community is ready and willing to take care of them.
“This sends a message to healthcare workers that they are not alone and that people are mobilizing and doing what they can,” said Elliott. He added that there is “real value” in elevating health workers “emotionally” and letting them know that community members are behind them.
There are 11 hospitals in the Santa Clara area and three of them are owned and operated by the county. As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 1,000 cases of coronavirus were reported in Santa Clara County, the largest in the Greater Bay Area.
Kurani said that the “duty” of health workers is to prioritize the health of the community and that it “warms the heart” the community “wants to make sure that our health is the number one priority for them” .
“I honestly think it will be this type of collaboration between hospitals and the community that will allow us to defeat this virus,” said Kurani.