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Mini-Display Examines South Carolina’s Role in PPE Production

By Meredith Nichter, Curator of Science and Technology

Now on display in the museum’s Community Gallery, Doing Our Part: Producing Supplies to Fight COVID-19, highlights the ways in which businesses, universities, and volunteers in South Carolina have joined in to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

An oft-repeated quote from Fred Rogers suggests that we “look for the helpers” in times of crisis. It was in that spirit that I wanted to take a closer look at the ways different sectors across the state have pivoted from their normal production in order to provide supplies during this time of critical need.

From large companies to the education sector, from small businesses to community groups of volunteers, South Carolinians have stepped up in numerous ways during this critical time. The COVID-19 Emergency Supply online portal has served to organize these efforts and match those who are in need of supplies with those who are producing them. A collaborative effort between the SC Hospital Association, SCBIO, SC Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and SCDHEC, this portal has connected over 750 manufacturers, donating organizations, healthcare providers, and other businesses.

Below is a brief list of just some of the ways South Carolina is doing its part to fight COVID-19:

· Sleep Number Mattress (Irmo) & Phenix Engineered Textiles (Landrum) – Replaced the elastic on tens of thousands of N95 masks from hospital stockpiles that were otherwise unusable.

· Milliken (Spartanburg) – Repurposed fabric used for graduation gowns to instead make waterproof material that can be used in hospital settings, and have increased production of their BioSmart antimicrobial fabric.

· Boeing (North Charleston) – Donated cargo transports on their DreamLifter aircrafts to bring surgical masks, goggles and face shields to South Carolina from China.

· Hollow Creek Distillery (Leesville) – Produced sanitizer for the SC Department of Transportation, the Governor’s office, the Department of Corrections, and several healthcare facilities around the state.

· Brackish Bowties (Charleston) – Launched their Masks By Makers initiative, a community-wide campaign which has donated about 3,000 fabric masks to workers in healthcare settings and has been honored by the White House for their work.

· ZVerse (Columbia) – Designed a new type of face shield aimed towards service industry workers that may be a more comfortable but hygenic alternative to fabric masks.

· Medical University of South Carolina (Charleston) – A team of biomedical engineers designed a 3D-printable filter cartridge system with an efficiency equivalent to N95 masks and provide instructions online so that anyone with a 3D printer can produce them.

· Seamstresses with a Purpose (Columbia) – A group of hundreds of volunteers have donated their time and talents to sew fabric masks and provide them for free to hospitals, doctor’s offices, police, retirement homes, and the general public.

Make sure stop by this display, on the second floor, while on your next museum visit!