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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Heeding The Call: How 2 Tri-State Businesses Are Pivoting To Make Face Shields

Courtesy of SuperATV
A convience store employee stands behind a polycarbonate barrier produced by SuperATV in Madison, Indiana.

On a normal day, workers at SuperATV in Madison, Ind., would be manufacturing after-market accessories for utility all-terrain vehicles (UTVs). Instead, they're taking would-be windshield materials and turning them into face shields and barriers to go between employees and customers, similar to what Kroger and other stores are installing.

"We wanted to develop something to help fight this virus," says Jay King, director of business development for SuperATV. "We wanted to help protect not only our employees but the employees that are still going to work every day. We appreciate what they're doing out there in the world trying to keep people fed and keep people with supplies. As long as they're out there, we want to help."

The company's newly created barriers are in the U.S. Post Office in Madison, local grocery and big box stores and auto parts stores, and can go anywhere people have a face-to-face or customer-facing interactions.

SuperATV has already donated barriers and face shields to King's Daughter Health hospital, and is reaching out to other hospitals. King says they're supplying face shields to the state of Indiana, and offering the items for sale online.

"The Indiana Economic Development Committee has a resource ... they actually reached out to us and ordered 2,000 of those face shields."

Credit Courtesy of SuperATV
SuperATV in Madison, Indiana, is making fewer ATV accessories in order to produce face shields for medical workers and sneeze/cough barriers for customer-facing employees.

The company converted machines it uses to make polycarbonate windshields to make clear visor-like face shields for first responders and the clear barriers. King estimates the company has enough supplies on hand to make nearly 5,000 face shields and 48,000 barriers, with more polycarbonate on the way.

King says the company's sales have remained strong during the pandemic. Some employees are working from home and production has been shifted to a "skeleton crew" to maintain distance between those on the manufacturing lines.

"We're not going to make a lot of money on these - we're just trying to get our cost back of what we're putting into it. The face shields can be bought in a multi-pack and the barriers can be bought either one-off or in a multi-pack as well."

After coming up with the idea, he says it took only a few hours to create a prototype to take to the business community.

"The response was fantastic," he says. "They wanted them. They wanted them right away - as many as they could get. We saw an opportunity to help out and if every business out there could take their strengths and apply it in a way to help fight this virus, we could do anything in the U.S."

Credit Courtesy of Tri State Plastics
Covington-based Tri State Plastics will soon be sending face shields like these to hospitals across Kentucky.

Tri State Plastics

Lisa Schneider, founder and owner of Tri State Plastics in Covington, Ky., feels the same way. Her 15 employees aim to soon be making 10,000 to 25,000 face shields per week.

Schneider got an email asking manufacturers about how they might be able to help with the COVID-19 response. The company, a full line plastics distributor, realized it could make face shields. A prototype was sent to the Kentucky Health Collaborative, which represents hospitals across the commonwealth. It was quickly approved and the collaborative placed an order.

The company regularly brings in palates of materials, Schneider says. "By Wednesday of last week, most of the major manufacturers of this thin-gauge sheet material that's used for the face shields said 'We're out of material.' They all within a matter of 24 hours started flipping their production lines to run the ... thin-gauge material."

She expects to start getting more material by the end of the week and start churning out shields next week and delivering them to hospitals across Kentucky.

Schneider chokes up when asked how it feels to be able to help in the fight against COVID-19.

"Anyone who knows me and knows our business has reached out and said, 'Whatever you need, let me know,' " she says. "It just is amazing to me to see everyone want to pitch in. ... Just to know that everybody wants to pull together to fight this is huge."

It's personal for Schneider because she has family members and loved ones on the front lines.

"I have a lot of friends who are nurses and I want to make sure they're protected. I don't want them getting sick."

This story was originally published April 1.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.