THE LATEST ON THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) OUTBREAK
Brookville Glove Switches to Face Mask Production Amid Shortage Created by COVID-19 Pandemic
(PHOTOS Courtesy Emily Walker’s Facebook page.)
The company is now making medical masks worn in nursing homes and hospitals, something in short supply due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The company usually makes class one medical exam gloves, as well as non-medical disposable gloves.
When Plant Manager Emily Walker went to work on Friday, it was with a heavy heart. She knew that due to an order from Governor Tom Wolf for non-life-sustaining businesses to shut down, she would need to lay off her employees.
Despite the fact the plant manufactures safety gloves, they’re considered apparel manufacturers and required to shut down under the governor’s orders.
One phone call from Guardian Elder Care changed everything. It came around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, March 20.
“They were in desperate need of face masks,” Walker explained. “Someone from (Guardian) corporate got ahold of me to see if we could figure out a way to manufacture safety masks.”
Guardian Elder Care has numerous senior living and rehabilitation facilities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Locally, there are locations in Clarion, Oil City, Shippenville, Punxsutawney, Brockway, and Titusville.
Once the seed of this idea was planted, it quickly grew.
“Within five hours of us going back and forth and figuring out prototypes, we found something that worked,” Walker said. “Later that day, I called my CEO and President, Brian Dougherty. We stayed until 8:00 p.m. Friday to get the equipment switched over.”
By Saturday, ten employees, or about half of the regular workforce, were turning out face masks.
Saturday was a trial and error day as they worked the bugs out of the assembly process, but Walker expects they’ll be able to produce 2,000 masks per day this week. They sell for $3.25 each.
The masks are machine washable and reusable. They’re made from the same material as some of the gloves, a heavy-duty cotton and polyester blend. It does allow the wearer to breathe, but nothing else gets through.
“The Vice President of Guardian Elder Care came through here yesterday,” Walker recounted. “He said he dumped a cup of water into the mask, and none of the water was able to bleed through.”
Brookville Glove and Guardian Elder Care didn’t have a business relationship before the idea to provide the much-needed masks. The endeavor came from a call made out of the blue.
“I think it’s just small-town local businesses knowing of each other,” Walker said. “I think they knew we had sewing machines, so it was a shot in the dark for them. My team here at Brookville Glove and their (Guardian) corporate team worked well together and came up with something that works.”
Guardian began taking delivery of the masks on Saturday.
According to Walker, they have plenty of material on hand. Once the components are gathered, assembling each mask takes less than a minute.
Word spread during the weekend through social media about the new masks. Now, other facilities are contacting Brookville Glove to see if they can purchase them, as well.
“With as many phone calls as we’re getting, we’re looking into adding a second shift,” Walker said.
Many calls came from hospitals in New York. Their current suppliers can’t get anything to them fast enough.
“This whole ordeal is such an eye-opener about buying products overseas,” Walker said. “I hope this wakes up a lot of people about why it’s so important to have manufacturing here in the United States.”
Walker said it’s possible Brookville Glove may continue to make masks in addition to gloves even beyond concerns about COVID-19.
Currently, state restrictions prohibit Brookville Glove from continuing to make gloves in addition to the masks. Walker hopes that will change soon.
While the plant is operating amid the pandemic, they are taking precautions to keep their employees safe. All workers wear gloves and masks and have their temperature taken when they arrive at work. The plant is cleaned with bleach every two hours.
As an additional precaution, Brookville Glove recommends washing the masks before their first wearing.
Workers who do not feel safe coming to work amid the pandemic will not be required to do so. However, Walker said that most employees enthusiastically accepted the challenge of producing the new product.
Everyone from the administrative assistant to the boss’s children spent time at a sewing machine during the weekend to get the bugs worked out of the manufacturing process and proceed to full production of the masks.
“It’s very fulfilling knowing that we are helping so many people in such a scary time,” Walker said.
While the masks are currently being manufactured for Guardian Elder Care, individuals who may need a mask locally can call Brookville Glove at 800-322-7324.
Copyright © 2020 EYT Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of the contents of this service without the express written consent of EYT Media Group, Inc. is expressly prohibited.