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Tough Times Call for Creativity

Posted by Steph Anderson

Tough Times Call for Creativity

It doesn’t need to be stated that spring of 2020 has been strange, in many ways surreal and ultimately stressful. But- even in the worst of times it is key to remain optimistic and look for the best in every situation. This past month Frost River has fully switched operations over to creating PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) for our healthcare workers at the front lines. We are thrilled to announce that we have found success providing protective equipment to our local health care workers and patients.

We first started with Face Shields, running our cutting table literally all hours of the day, carving out pieces of plastic to cover the faces, and protecting critical N95 masks, of healthcare workers. As the team was working on the endeavor of producing 45,000 shields, we were also figuring out what else we could do to fight against COVID-19.

There’s been a lot of hurdles along the way, one of them being the search for medical-grade materials that can be crafted into PPEs. We were extremely fortunate in that the local healthcare facilities wanted to support us on our PPE endeavor and had a brilliant idea of materials they could send our way.

The coolest part of this material- it’s clean, medical waste, systematically pulled from the operating rooms prior to the presentation of the patient- brilliant! These pack wraps in normal times would be bound for the landfill. Now, the masks are up-cycled to provide a superior, re-usable surgical style mask.

St.Luke’s and Essentia Hospitals in Duluth, Minnesota are supplying us with their cloth-like wrap used for covering surgical equipment. Trays with sterilized instruments are wrapped in this fabric to keep the tools clean until the point of surgery. After the tools are removed, the wrap becomes waste and is thrown in the trash. This all happens before a patient even enters the room.This light, yet durable wrap is perfect for manufacturing face masks, PAPR masks and coverall "bunny suits" were next on our list.

Currently there is so much demand for PPEs that we have converted our entire retail shop area to an additional production floor. We’ve brought upwards of 12 new needle feed sewing machines in and have grouped them in socially distanced groups of four. The arrangement encourages teamwork, collaboration and efficiency while keeping workers safe. We are even looking to expand our sewing production team, offering part-time temporary employment for those looking to help in a time of need.

Not only does it feel great to provide support to the healthcare workers fighting this pandemic head on, but it’s a major bonus to be doing it through up-cycling and in a way that also benefits the environment. Instead of sterile surgical wrap heading straight to the landfill, it will be re-purposed and act as a life-saving protectant.

Thank you for reading and Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Don't worry Bear, you'll be back in the Frost River retail shop soon enough- just in time for a grand re-opening.

(We’ve had a lot of questions from the public asking if we are selling the masks individually. We are focused on producing PPE in bulk for healthcare workers only.)