Nevada County businesses retool to meet medical needs |

Nevada County businesses retool to meet medical needs

John Orona
Staff Writer
An example of a face shield, one of hundreds produced by Grass Valley manufacturer Autometrix and donated to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
Photo submitted by Jonathan Palmer

As the COVID-19 pandemic strains supply chains for crucial medical and emergency goods, leading to protective equipment shortages in areas most impacted by the coronavirus, local businesses are reworking their operations to ensure Nevada County has the supplies it will need.

According to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital President Brian Evans, the community at large has showed tremendous support for health care workers, from bringing in food and coffee to sending encouraging signs and letters. Two businesses, however, have managed to stand out by supplying bulk quantities of badly needed face shields and hand sanitizer.

After receiving a sample face shield to work with last week, Autometrix, a Grass Valley-based manufacturer, began mass producing the protective equipment and supplied the hospital with about 500 units in one day.

“People are really wanting to turn some of their concerns and anxieties into actions,” Evans said. “These types of things really make a huge difference because the supply chains for hospitals and other health care entities have really been disrupted as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic.”

While the face shields do not offer the same protection as the in demand N95 masks, Evans said they are pivotal in freeing up supplies and equipment for the health care workers who need them most.

Since the first batch, Autometrix owner Jonathan Palmer estimated about 1,600 face shields have been delivered. According to Evans, these newly produced shields will be able to be cleaned and reused, unlike the disposable ones often used. Evans said because of this, the hospital will likely have enough supply to outlast the pandemic.

Palmer said once he knew he wanted to help out, it was crucial to work with local experts to find out what was needed, what could be supplied within regulations and not to duplicate a service already being provided.

“I just wanted to do whatever we could to supply whatever they needed, and that’s the attitude we’ve been running into a lot,” Palmer said. “The last thing we want is to make a bunch of stuff that’s not really needed or create more work or take up somebody’s time.”

Hand sanitizer

Dan Kennerson — vice president of Satellite Spirits, which makes South Fork Vodka — said that same ability to quickly shift operations is what allowed his company to help out the hospital as well.

For about the last two weeks, the Grass Valley distillery has used a World Health Organization guide to learn that with just a few tweaks to the final process, it could use its vodka operation to mass produce hand sanitizer.

According to Kennerson, the distillery has made about 100 gallons so far and is donating bottles to police and fire departments, along with senior care facilities and the hospital. Additionally, Kennerson said any facility facing a sanitizer shortage should reach out to South Fork Vodka on its Facebook page.

Both companies said they are ready and willing to continue supplying equipment and helping any way they can, but along with Evans stressed the importance of coordination.

“It’s inspiring to see what the community is willing to do to help. We have generous, talented people who want to do the right thing and it’s a reminder that we’re all in here together,” Evans said. “Just by adhering to the rules the Public Health Department is putting in, it will really make it a lot easier for us to manage as a hospital. When people are doing their part — washing their hands and sheltering at home correctly — they are saving lives.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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