By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
Hardwire, boutique change gears to provide protection to health care workers
(April 2, 2020) Residents and companies in Worcester County are creating protective gear for medical personnel and members of the community during the spread of covid-19 throughout the state.
Hardwire LLC, a Pocomoke City manufacturer of protective armor used by the military, law enforcement and school systems, announced last Friday that it will be manufacturing face shields for medical personnel on the front lines of the battle.
“The shield is a first line of defense,” Hardwire CEO George Tunis said. “What they are is extremely lightweight face shield that goes over your other PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]. The doctors and nurses are wearing N-95 (anti-virus) facemasks. That’s really what filters the virus out as you as you breathe. If someone sneezes or coughs directly on you. Without a face shield, the virus is going to hit you. Either it gets your eyes, your skin, your sinus … you’re just trying to keep it literally off of you.
“We have very good customers and friends in Italy,” he continued. “A couple of weeks ago, they really clued us in that this was much worse than you can imagine. And they said to take it very seriously and move as quickly as you can. They said the virus is quick and it’s clever.”
Two weeks ago, Tunis and his company began looking into methods they could use to provide materials for health workers to use.
Tunis credits his friend Monty Hawkins, a local headboat captain, with giving him the idea for the shields. Within a few days of talking to each other, the first prototype was created.
“He has kicked me in the rear-end and told me, ‘You can do this,’” Tunis said. “And he has been cheerleading the entire week. It’s really been about that human-to-human interaction at a safe distance that has made this possible. And I think it’s epitomized by Monty Hawkins on (his boat) the Morning Star. He’s one of the heroes.”
While the company mostly manufactures armor and is considered an essential business since it is a defense contractor, it has set aside a segment of its facility to create face masks.
Hardwire has fielded over a hundred initial prototypes within a week of production, 50 of which were sent to Atlantic General Hospital.
“When George reached out to us, he presented the perfect opportunity to allow our front-line providers to collaborate on a product to fill the void for critically needed protective equipment for our industry,” Michael Franklin, president and CEO of Atlantic General Hospital, said in a press release. “Hardwire has allowed our caregivers to provide input to the development of a product that will allow caregivers everywhere to feel valued, safe and reassured that they have the necessary protection to provide care to their patients and community.”
The medical staff loves them, Tunis said.
“The nurses are raving about them … the doctors are raving about them [as well], but most importantly, the nurses, because they’re on the frontline,” Tunis said. “They’re pulling 15-hour shifts day after day after day.
“The beauty of this week is working with the doctors and nurses and simplifying the design, making it as elegantly simple as possible, with really comfortable materials.” He continued. “There’s really only three materials in the mask. Those materials need to be able to be sterilized with isopropyl alcohol. It’s something you can use for weeks.”
Tunis has been sending the updated face shields to Atlantic General Hospital and PRMC, among other facilities.
Even though the shields were made primarily for medical staff, Tunis said people can order the face shields if they feel it is necessary for their everyday lives or to complete their work if they are essential employees.
The company is scaling to a production capacity of approximately 6,000 units per day as quickly as next week, according to Tunis. Production goals are set at closer to 60,000 units per day as national demand may dictate that need.
“We have made 12,000 shields so far [as of Tuesday] and as of Tuesday we had a rate of 6,000 per day,” Tunis said. “Our target by the end of the week, we expect to be at approximately 10,000 per day. Our goal is 60,000 per day.”
The company is selling the face shields for $10 a box, which comes with quantity options like single, three, 20, 50 and 100. Every order will have two-day shipping.
Fore orders for more than 200 shields or additional expedited orders, contact Hardwire at 410-957-3669.
The company has also taken part in hiring formerly laid-off or unemployed workers.
“We started 15 new workers [Tuesday],” Tunis said. “We’ve taken in laid-off restaurant workers, orthodontist workers, college students – including a star athlete at Virginia Tech – a young man from Coastal Surf Supplies, the list goes on. These are all dedicated, great Americans that want to make a difference.”
For more information about Hardwire, call Hardwire at 410-957-3669 or email Emily.Tunis@hardwirellc.com.
While Hardwire is hard at work manufacturing face shields, a West Ocean City businesswoman has decided to create her own face masks to provide to medical staff and residents.
Marge Calvello, who owns Blushing Beauty Boutique, realized she had all the materials needed to create face masks, as she was already creating medical alert seat covers.
“I’m a seamstress. I saw a need for the masks; they were talked about on the news,” Calvello said. “I’m like, ‘You know, I can make masks for people not to touch their nose and their chin area or face area.’”
Calvello went online and followed a YouTube instructional video to teach herself how to make the masks. She began making them on Tuesday, March 24 and has made more than 400 masks as of earlier this week. Within three days of creating the masks she had already made around 150.
Those masks have been sent to hospitals all over the country, with masks sent as far north as New Jersey and as far south as Florida.
Calvello charges $5 per mask, mostly to offset the cost of the supplies needed to create the masks.
“I just thought this would be a great thing to do for the community,” she said. “I just am thankful that I can sit here and do it for people. I have given some away for people that cannot afford it right now.”
Some of her masks have also been fitted to hold a pocket, which would be used for medical staff to place their professional N-95 masks inside to prevent them from wearing down as quickly. Calvello plans to make as many masks as she can until she runs out of materials.
“I think everybody needs to be safe,” Calvello said. “It’s just so important for everybody to pitch in, help and support your community.”
The masks can be ordered by messaging Calvello at her Facebook page or messaging on her Blushing Beauty Boutique Facebook page.
The entire nation is facing a shortage of these masks. Closer to home, medical facilities like the Macky & Pam Stansell House Coastal Hospice or Coastal Hospice by the Lake still have a supply of masks for now, but are definitely aware of the need for more.
“As good stewards of our resources, we are collecting homemade masks to provide for staff who would feel better wearing a mask every day,” President Alane Capen said. “These masks are about 82 percent effective and can be washed. Using the homemade masks for daily wear where we do not suspect a respiratory illness will help our staff feel more secure in providing the intimate care that we do.”
Coastal Hospice is accepting professionally made and handmade masks. If you have masks that you would like to donate, call 410-742-8732.
If you or someone you know has any N95 masks, hospitals are urging you to donate or sell them. The CDC doesn’t recommend the use of N95 masks for anyone other than healthcare professionals working directly with patients.