Matt Schaeffer, a young high-end fabricator, is using his talent to make protective face shields for area healthcare facilities with the backing of the company he works for, Sound FX Home Theater and Car Audio in Lewes.
Schaeffer has a special interest in making shields because his wife and the mother of company owner Brian Layton both work in the intensive care unit at Beebe Healthcare.
Schaeffer said the goal is to make 2,500 shields to be distributed free of charge to hospitals and medical offices, and to emergency responders who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. During his first week, he produced 350 shields, which have gone to Beebe Healthcare in Lewes and Bayhealth Hospital in Milford. So far, more than 500 shields have been delivered. He’s recently moved production to his home basement in order to keep work going as many hours as possible.
He wants to provide shields to as many hospitals and ambulance services as possible in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. “We want to hit them first because they are on the front lines,” he said. He already has requests for more than 2,000 shields, including requests from medical offices, senior-living facilities and local businesses, which he has started to supply.
“Unless you have direct contact with someone working in healthcare, you don't know how bad this is,” Schaeffer said. “My wife has considered living in a hotel room to keep me and our two kids safe.”
Twenty percent of COVID-19 cases nationwide are healthcare workers. “It's crazy. They don't have enough personal protection equipment. My wife is scared because she doesn't have proper equipment. This is not exclusive to Delaware – it's a problem all over the country.”
Protective equipment includes gowns, gloves, helmets, face shields, masks, goggles and in extreme cases, respirators. Unlike most other protective gear, face shields can be reused once they are sanitized.
“We are trying to put out a fire until the big fire trucks arrive,” Schaeffer said. “Maybe we can decrease that 20 percent to 5 percent or 2 percent around here.”
Over a 15-hour period, working alone, he assembled 125 shields. With all hands on deck, he estimates they can make 300 to 400 shields.
The design for the shields was a joint effort by Schaeffer and other top fabricators in the country. “We are sharing it, and it's been sent out all over the country. Hopefully, those in our industry can make 30,000 to 50,000 shields,” he said.
He also fabricated 10 intubation boxes out of quarter-inch acrylic to provide a protective shield between doctors and patients. Intubation is a standard procedure that involves passing a tube into a person’s airway. Doctors often intubate a patient before surgery or in emergencies for medicine or to help a person breathe.
He plans to deliver the boxes to five different hospitals. “These are like gold because this is where doctors are at extremely high risk,” he said.
He said the company doesn't want donations to help fabricate the shields. “We are urging people to support local restaurants with takeouts or gift cards,” he said.
Schaeffer, who was recognized as 2016 Installer of the Year, has put his high-end car audio work on hold to make the shields.
In addition to Schaeffer’s honor four years ago, Sound FX was Retailer of the Year in 2014 and 2019, Schaeffer said.