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Car parts manufacturer joins fight against COVID-19 with custom protective equipment

April 14, 2020

At a production line in Bellevue, equipment is usually reserved for making car parts. But now it’s churning out life-saving equipment in the war against COVID-19.

“The building’s on fire – you can run away or you can run in,” says Scott Whitehead, owner of that production line.

And Scott and his team are running in at full speed.

The product: protection for valuable eyes. Protection for caregivers.

“Absolutely. Everyday,” says nurse Mary Shepler, of when she first heard the idea. “Ok, we’ll make a few.”

But the the need grows. The virus spreads. And the fire continues to burn.

“Okay, we need to scale this up to 100 thousand per week,” Scott remembers thinking.

Scott’s business, Bellevue-based Benchmark Motoring, creates safety equipment for high end cars.

Then COVID-19 hit.

“To me, this is bigger than 9/11. Gonna effect much more people,” says Scott.

He watched as hospitals around the world struggled to find personal protective equipment.

“There was a lot of people talking about needing shields, and they were in short supply,” explains Whitehead.

So his team created one. And, through a mutual friend, Scott brought it to Mary Shepler, the Chief Nursing Officer at EvergreenHealth.

And When Mary had feedback, Scott had her team visit his office and they started creating 3D scans.

“And while we’re there he starts adjusting the fit, and his designers are already making the changes we asked,” says Mary.

Scott also made sure the shields are easy to sanitize. That’s a game changer.

“And is very quick to take on and off. It would allow you to break it down and wash it in something like a dishwasher,” says Scott.

The shields also protect health care workers from catching the corona-virus from patients. Critical at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, at the epicenter of the outbreak.

“One of the things new, like about Scott’s [face shields], is that it protects our eyes on the top,” says Mary.

Through the process, Scott has been cheered on by one of his first car parts customers: Anthony Ray, better known as Sir-Mix-A lot.

“I met Scott when he was 17 years old. He’s not stopping. If the quarantine stopped, he’s still not stopping. I’ve got a feeling it’s caught fire, the fuse is lit, says Mix. “And he’s ramping it up: you guys need ten thousand? Okay, you need 20 thousand – okay.”

And on this day nurse Mary hopes for a hit! She’s about to see the latest models.

“Can’t wait! Can’t wait,” says Mary, as we meet at Evergreen Hospital.

The nurses who work there are getting the greatest of care packages.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’d give you a hug, but…” says one face shield recipient.

From those staffing the COVID testing site outside, to the ones battling on the hospital floor inside, the nurses love the shields.

“Our staff is going to be super excited because the goggles – they have the marks and everything. These are super comfortable, my gosh it’s amazing,” says one floor nurse.

It’s all Scott ever wanted.

“You’re totally a health care giver now so you can’t get out of that, you’re as much of a health care worker as a lot of other people,” nurse Mary tells Scott.

The shields are free, but they are priceless.

“This has been a life changing deal for us in a lot of ways,” says Whitehead.

There’s worldwide demand now, which means long days and weeks for Scott. All to help healthcare workers face patients with empathy – and the enemy, with confidence.

“I feel like it’s one foot in front of the other, and we’re trying to get this into the hands of people we can hopefully help,” says Scott.

Scott is producing 1,000 face shields every day and hopes to bump up to 100,000 a week. You can join the fight by donating at this link.

If you or your organization would like to get some of these face shields, get in touch with us at consumer@kiro7.com.

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