Staff members at the eight Veterans Homes of California have spent the past three months trying to keep the coronavirus COVID-19 out of the Homes.
Most personal protective equipment (PPE) has been available when it comes to gloves, gowns, and masks, including masks made by big-hearted co-workers and volunteers at the various Homes. But, two pieces of equipment they can always use more of arrived at CalVet headquarters last week, courtesy of a group from Modesto Junior College (MJC). This group is made up of four instructors, a student, and a community member who is an MJC graduate.
Spearheaded by MJC professor, David Martin, the group has fabricated and distributed more than 600 face shields and 700 pairs of “ear savers” to hospitals in the Modesto and East Bay areas. They are now concentrating on supplying these two items of PPE to nursing facilities, including the Veterans Homes of California system.
Using as many as nine 3-D laser printers, they produced 200 face shields and 280 pairs of “ear savers” that will be distributed to CalVet’s Homes where needed. The “ear savers” are plastic pieces that enable the user to attach the elastic straps of the face masks to the plastic of the ear saver rather than behind the wearer’s ears. It makes the masks more comfortable to wear, eliminating the rubbing of the elastic bands against the backs of the ears, thus saving them.
“CalVet wants to thank the folks at Modesto Junior College for their time, creativity, and materials in fashioning these face shields and other personal protective equipment,” said Coby Peterson, Veterans Homes Division deputy secretary. “This will enable staff in our Veterans Homes of California to better protect the veterans and themselves as we continue in our mission to keep the COVID-19 virus out of our Homes.”
Martin formed the group after a number of former students who are now working in Modesto-area facilities as nurses, physicians’ assistants, certified nursing assistants, and dental hygienists came to him for help. The former students said, “We don’t have PPE. What do we do to protect ourselves?” Martin said.
The N95 masks were available, but the shields – which offer a solid barrier between the caregiver and the patient – and “ear savers” were not. Consequently, Martin and the others began printing the gear. The MJC Foundation contributed $2,000 for materials, and since has created a fundraising mechanism to pay for additional costs. Each shield costs about $4 to produce, the “ear savers” roughly 25 cents a pair. The group then donates the gear, including what it provided to CalVet.