Fighting the war on coronavirus at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Dozens of men and women wearing surgical masks and gloves formed a human production line on Thursday, manufacturing coronavirus-blocking face shields at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Working at tables piled with plastic and foam inside a hangar-sized warehouse, it looked like a scene from the WWII era.
Thousands of the face shields will be heading within days to hospitals and first responders in the war against the novel coronavirus, thanks to companies at the yard.
The CEOs of Duggal Visual Solutions and Bednark Studio, a fabrication company, told reporters that they realized late last week that between them, they had the manufacturing know-how to produce plastic face shields.
“Last week Bednark started laying off staff,” Michael Bednark said. When they heard the city and state’s call to action, “Mike [Duggal] and I teamed up, created a game plan and started securing a supply chain.”
On Sunday the two met with the Department of Health, which suggested tweaks to their design. “By Sunday afternoon we had a purchase order for 120,000 face shields,” Bednark said.
“Six days ago we were producing displays and coronavirus safety signage,” Duggal added. “I saw the call to action from the mayor and governor’s office, and realized we had the materials on our hands.”
“This is a wartime effort,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said as he thanked the 65 volunteers, many of whom are on furlough from their regular jobs.
With confirmed cases at roughly 23,000 in New York City as of Thursday evening, the city has a third of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. About 365 New York City residents have died.
“Every one of you are heroes right now because you’re providing the materials that are going to save lives and protect our health care workers. And you make me very proud of New York City and you make me very proud of Brooklyn,” the mayor told the workers.
The companies are shipping 50,000 shields to the Department of Health on Saturday and 25,000 are already fabricated, de Blasio said. By Tuesday, he expects 120,000 shields to be ready to go.
The shields will be distributed by DOH according to need.
Duggal led reporters on a tour of the manufacturing facility where large flatbed machines, which normally produce graphic displays for retail, were cutting plastic for the shields.
“The cutting is running 24 hours a day,” said Howard Silverstein, who runs the fabrication division of Duggal.
“I like to say I spent most of my career making displays for women to buy cosmetics they don’t need,” he joked. Now his skills are being put to use saving lives.
Jeff Holmes, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, said Thursday was the first full day of production for the shields, and the companies expected to make from 15,000 to 18,000 a day.
The entire facility is disinfected each night, Duggal said.