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Local St. Louis makers team up to make face shields for health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

By Monday, the group expects to have delivered 4,100 face shields to healthcare workers at more than 20 medical centers in the St. Louis area


If there’s one positive effect of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s that it’s showing us the true strength of the Greater St. Louis community.

Face Shield Initiative St. Louis is drawing on people across that community, including artists, engineers and people stuck in their homes, to help healthcare workers and prove that we really are stronger together.

“There’s a community behind the scary thing that’s happening right now,” local product designer and founder of Face Shield Initiative St. Louis David Cervantes said.

Five weeks ago, he put out a call on his Instagram page, saying he had a 3D printer and was looking for a way to help. He’d seen other designers printing ventilator parts and other needed medical equipment. Through one of his followers, Cervantes discovered Barnes-Jewish Hospital had a desperate need for 3,000 face shields.

“This face shield is like a windshield. It protects, you know. It stops sneezes and coughs and protects the people who wear it. Plus, you can sanitize it and reuse it,” Cervantes said.

He told them it would take 18 days of nonstop printing to make 300 shields. Then, enlisted friends at MADE makerspace, Inventor Forge and Arch Reactor Makerspace.

“The 18 days it would've taken to print 300 harnesses got reduced to two days thanks to the collaborative efforts of the maker community,” Cervantes said.

Now, with the help of hundreds of makers - teachers, engineers, artists, local businesses, even the St. Louis Science Center - Face Shield St. Louis regularly collects and delivers thousands of face shields each week.

By Monday, April 20, the group expects to have delivered 4,100 face shields to healthcare workers at more than 20 medical centers from downtown St. Louis to St. Charles County.

“We’re trying to work as a stop-gap measure until they get their full-blown orders [of N95 masks],” Cervantes said. “But not all hospitals have that kind of money, you know. Not all hospitals are going to have those kind of pockets. So we’re still trying to distribute as many of these face shields to the folks who need it, as fast as we can.”

And things are going faster than he could’ve imagined, thanks to volunteers like Vince Lin.

“I wanted to get face shields to hospital workers, but I didn’t know how,” Lin said. “Then, I found the group, and they had already done all that research. They made sure the masks had been approved by hospital leadership, so they’re making it so easy for everyone. It’s awesome.”

Lin was inspired by his parents, who sent thousands-of-dollars-worth of masks to family in Taiwan during the SARS outbreak.

“I feel like every time someone from the group sees one of those pictures [of healthcare workers wearing donated face shields], it gives them extra momentum and extra strive to say, ‘Yea, I’m definitely going to keep on doing this for as long as I can,'" Lin said.

According to Cervantes, it costs anywhere from $5 to $8 to produce each face shield, which adds up when you’re making thousands of them.

Local businesses have donated parts, some even buying 3D printers specifically to make the shields. Individuals with 3D printers have given their time, money, and supplies to creating frames for the shields.

Face Shield Initiative St. Louis has created a GoFundMe page, where people can donate money to pay for supplies. The donations allow volunteers to continue printing, as materials at the consumer level become harder to find.

“Donors, they gave us the purchasing power to acquire these materials in mass amounts, so we can purchase the 3D filaments and restock our printers,” Cervantes said.

So far, the page has raised more than $25,000 for the cause.

“It gives us a lot of happiness and joy that the shields are being used and that our hard work is helping them do their hard work, the heroes on the front lines," Cervantes said.

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