Berkeley carpentry shop makes face shields for Kaiser Permanente 

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A Kaiser Permanente carpentry shop located in West Berkeley has made about 30,000 face shields since mid-March to bolster personal protective equipment, or PPE, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The face shields are intended for front-line health care workers, including nurses, doctors and technicians, according to Ben Gover, interim executive director of support services for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. They are also a standard design and are approved by Kaiser’s infectious disease physicians and infection preventionist.

“As the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, supply chains for personal protective equipment became unreliable and we started running low on some key items,” Gover said in an email. “Our national director of the supply chain sent me an email around 2 in the morning with a prototype of a face shield he had made in his garage, and we got inspired to see what we could make ourselves to help meet this moment.”

Before the West Berkeley shop started manufacturing face shields, it initially helped to build furniture such as cabinets for Kaiser facilities. Now, more than 36 people are working on both disposable and reusable face shields, according to Gover.

Gover added that Kaiser will continue to produce face shields during shortages, with plans to employ all carpentry shops in its service areas to do the same.

Those who want to help make face shields should observe the National Institutes of Health’s reviewed and recommended designs, according to UC Berkeley electrical engineering and computer sciences associate professor Björn Hartmann.

“Local fabrication efforts such as the ones by Kaiser and by UC Berkeley are a valuable way to help address shortages in PPE until mass production of these items can catch up to the demand,” Hartmann said in an email. “While manual fabrication and printing of PPE can’t match the scale of industrial manufacturing, we’ve seen that local makers can quickly have meaningful impact when traditional supply chains are not working.”

Olivia Buccieri is the lead business and economy reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @obuccieri_dc‏.