By Breana Pitts

CHARLESTOWN (CBS) — Companies nationwide are doing their part to create more personal protective equipment for health care providers. And in Charlestown, a shop owner is producing thousands of face shields to guard medical workers against coronavirus and donating them to hospitals in the northeast.

“I never thought I’d be making personal protective equipment, however this is the new normal of the world we know live in,” Chad Bennett told WBZ via Skype.

Bennett is coordinating the Charlestown Face Shield Project out of Dark Monk, his 1,500 square ft. performing arts shop that has since been cleared out to make room for a production line.

“I was hearing from a lot of people that face shields, specifically for this type of virus, are incredibly important so I wanted to focus on that and a design that we can very rapidly produce. Even if you have an N-95 mask on you can touch your face or your eyes, but if we can have this barrier where you don’t touch your face, hopefully it can save the lives of our front line medical workers,” Bennett said.

The shields are an important barrier for health care providers (Photo credit: Charlestown Face Shield Project)

The shields, which cost between $3 and $4 to make, start with poly-carbonate clear sheets which go into an oven for thermal forming. After three minutes the sheets are removed and molded into the appropriate shape. A piece of forehead foam is attached with double-sided tape along the top of the shield for comfort. Rivets and washers are added to secure the foam on either end, and finished with an elastic band.

“When I started this I thought we’d make a couple of hundred shields total,” Bennett said. “Then it was like, we’ll do a thousand, now were doing a thousand a day.”

In the 2 weeks that the Charlestown Face Shield Project has been up and running they have produced more than 6,700 shields and donated them to hospitals in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

“We heard Cape Cod Hospital is calling our shields their riot gear because they’re so sturdy, it’s not a flimsy design. They are using our shields in their ICUs and critical care,” Bennett said. “People are volunteering to come here and pick up shields and drive them to Long Island in 1 day. It’s been a village helping a village.”

Originally, Bennett was going to make use of his 3D printers but says there’s no proper sanitation method for that kind of equipment. Instead, he opted for shields, which are reusable and can be sanitized with an already approved and safe method.

Making a face shield (Photo credit: Charlestown Face Shield Project)

“They each had different processes to do it but the important part was they can use an existing standard sterilization process and that was a big reason why I abandoned 3D printing because they’d have to set up a whole new dipping bucket system,” Bennett explained.

Bennett also says he tries to stay focused on just making the shields, and not the reason why he’s making them.

“I’ve heard so many stories from the front line, the ER and ICU. If I hear any of them, I break down and start crying. I can’t take it, so I focus on finding 100 more sheets of poly-carbonate or ordering rivets or getting food for staff and that’s it,” he said. “If I try to process the big stuff I can’t keep going, it’s too much.”

The shop owner says he will continue producing shields at any cost.

“If I go bankrupt or something, who cares. There are hundreds of thousands of people going to work every day right now who are risking their lives for us and there is nothing we shouldn’t be doing for these people. Send them a note, send them a thank you, ask them if they need groceries, see if they need childcare. Do anything you can to support these people cause they are heroes.”

The Charlestown Face Shield Project would like to make a total of 20,000 shields. They have raised about $31,000 of their $50,000 goal. You can donate to their GoFundMe here.

Breana Pitts

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