by Shawn Nowlin
At the start of the New Year, many people thought their summer would consist of going to the beach, experiencing in-person concerts and dining at restaurants with friends and family. Then in March the COVID-19 pandemic hit Virginia. As of Wednesday morning, there have been approximately 48,500 cases and 1,500 deaths due to the coronavirus throughout the Commonwealth.
Nathan O’Kane, like many others, believes that all people, especially healthcare workers, should not have to feel like they are at risk of contracting COVID-19 when they step out of their house. Committed to making a difference in the community, O’Kane says he has delivered approximately 4,100 face shields and 2,000 ear savers to local dentists and clinics in the last two months. On average, each face shield, he said, takes roughly four hours to complete on a 3D printer.
“Healthcare workers and front line employees are in the highest risk areas. If we can help reduce the spread by even one person that has an exponential impact on people’s lives and the economy,” he said.
This Sunday, O’Kane has organized a drive-thru distribution event at the Salem Civic Center. Sponsored by the Salem Credit Union, one doesn’t have to be a healthcare worker to stop by and pick up PPE, which is defined as “protective clothing, helmets, goggles or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer’s body from injury or infection.”
“We want to make the PPE more accessible to everyone and accelerate deliveries. So we’re taking a page from the quick-service industry,” O’Kane said. “This will make it much more efficient and accessible for folks to drive up, get the PPE and even distribute it at their places of employment.”
O’Kane, who says the PPE will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, is hopeful that people will take advantage of the available resources. Sunday’s event is expected to last from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and there will be no touch delivery.
“We’ve had a lot of generous donations of money for shipping and supplies, whole 3D printers and even partnered with a company that makes injection-molded face shields,” O’Kane said. “All of these have really helped us make a larger impact.”
People can learn more about the event by visiting http://tiny.cc/Drivethru.