In early April we shared news of a local group of people—medical students Annie Dube and Ryan Kirkby and teachers Ian McTavish and Thomas Morton—who had started an initiative to create and distribute face shields for free to local frontline workers.
Those shields—1,000 of them—are now in production and, with the help of about 25 volunteers, are being assembled, sanitized and distributed in the area.
This week the team began delivering them to a variety of local businesses and organizations including the post office, hardware stores, pharmacies, physiotherapists, the fire department, Community Living Huntsville, and seniors’ homes.
And there are still more available, free of charge, for anyone on the frontlines who needs one.
The group had started a GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs of production and very quickly exceeded their initial $5,000 goal. As of today, the campaign has raised $13,420.
After sending out about 15 prototypes to local workers, they adjusted the design based on feedback, adding the ability to adjust the headpiece for different sizes as well as adding hooks which would allow users to attach their own elastic to the shield to secure it to their head instead of using the included plastic arms that fit over their ears.
Because they have more than enough funds for the face shields, they have begun looking for other ways to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) within the community. They are working with a local company on the design for a mask and have been prototyping a face mask hook that would ease pressure on the ears of people who need to wear masks all day.
If the community reaches a point where there is enough PPE, they will look at other ways to use the funds raised to support the community.
“Right now, globally there is a big push to produce PPE,” says Dube. “If we find that the government is able provide these community organizations with PPE resources, the money won’t go to waste. We will change gears and look at other needs.” One option would be helping to address food insecurity through support for local food banks, she added.
And their initiative will potentially help other communities too—some of Dube and Kirkby’s Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) classmates are looking at using the design to create face shields in their own communities.
Thomas Morton with his laser cutter (above left) and with a sheet of the face shield headpiece components (above right) (supplied)
Anyone providing frontline services in the Huntsville area who would like to receive a face shield can email email@example.com to request one.
“They are free,” stresses Dube. “We don’t want [cost] to be a barrier to anyone receiving the protection they need. We will do our best to get them that protection as soon as possible,” says Dube, adding that they are also actively reaching out to local organizations and businesses.
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