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As local health care workers run out of medical supplies, local businesses shift production to help

New Orleans area businesses are working to make hand sanitizer and face shields, helping local health care workers stay in the fight against coronavirus.

The coronavirus outbreak has depleted the supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers now treating very sick patients.

Some New Orleans area businesses are now meeting the challenge to gear up “wartime” like production to help hospitals and families fill the COVID-19 void.

Scale Workspace is a product design and development firm in the warehouse district.

CEO Lyle LeBlanc said the company is now mass-producing 1000 face shields a day for Ochsner health.

“I think we started thinking we were going to make masks,” LeBlanc said. “Pretty quickly, it was like there are too many roadblocks, what we need are face shields, right. That’s the feedback on the ground.”

The company went from design to prototype to production in 7 days.

“You can chemically sanitize it, very well,” LeBlanc said. “We’re also trying to add like a clear vinyl skirt on the bottom so that when you put it on, you can have some protection from underneath.”

Celebration Distillation, the maker of Old New Orleans Rum is now putting its high-proof alcohol to good use.

Head distiller Matt Swiggum just mixed up his first 600 gallons of hand sanitizer.

“It’s just really incredible that we can be involved in something like this and help the community out and help our friends and family,” Swiggum said.

Customers have been flocking to the St. Roch distillery on Frenchmen Street to buy the product which has the sweet fragrance of rum.

“But, please do not drink it, whatever you do. You’ll get very sick on it,” Swiggum said.

The bottling line which normally packages hot sauce at the Louisiana Pepper Exchange in the Lower Garden District is sitting idle these days.

It will soon be converted to crank out about 18,000 bottles of sanitizer a day.

"We have a resource that’s limited right now,” Louisiana Pepper Exchange co-owner Chris White said. “Not many bottling lines are sitting idle right now, that don’t have production on them. So, we felt like it was appropriate for it to be able to utilize that resource to help the community and to help our business.”

White and his partner Aaron Dirks are both West Point graduates and ex-Army officers. That’s what they’ve dubbed their new product Cavalry Sanitizers.

“When all of the world is calling us for help to deliver sanitizer to save lives who do you call, you call in the Cavalry,” Dirks said.

Some companies like Louisiana Pepper Exchange, now answering the call during this national public health emergency are adding employees while other businesses are unfortunately laying off workers.

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