Coalition of companies manufacturing face masks in Sausalito

Plastic face shields- by the thousands- are being produced in Sausalito and donated to medical centers and nursing homes. 

A coalition of companies has re-tooled their normal operations to help during the COVID-19 crisis. 

"We want to help as many health care workers as we can, and we're getting a lot of requests," said Janelle Kellman, who spearheaded the effort after speaking to a friend who is an emergency room doctor in New Orleans. 

"I get chills just even recalling that conversation with him," said Kellman, who is a member of the Sausalito Planning Commission.   

She turned to the businesses at Marinship, a collection of light industrial, craft and design companies, some maritime-related. 

"I've just been blown away by their ingenuity and dedication and I'm just honored that our town has this," said Kellman. 

Reason Bradley, whose business makes sonar mounts for boats, took the lead. 

"We've just jumped in head-first and started buying material and making face shields," said Bradley. "It was super-sad to hear they were out of masks, face shields, everything."

Bradley has a big laser cutter he programmed to cut the thin, pliable plastic into shields. 

He chose a design created by an origami master in San Francisco.

"It's a super-adjustable headband and it also breathes with little vent holes at the top," said Bradley.

"Sometimes the most genius things are simple." 

Bradley finds it fitting that the shields are being made on the same waterfront where more than ninety Liberty ships were built during World War II.

"This is 100 percent a war right now, " he said, "with the doctors and the nurses the front line soldiers and unfortunately they seem to be giving their lives."

Sausalito Police officers received a few of the first shields but this month alone, several thousand have been donated to some sixty hospitals, in the Bay Area and across the country.

The first shields were made with leftover plastic from a local canvas maker.  

But the newest supply was impressive: a 2-ton roll that the Coca-Cola company donated and shipped, surplus plastic from the manufacture of beverage bottles. 

The massive roll arrived on a flatbed truck, and a neighboring welder built a custom stand for it to spool from. 

"We are all across the street or across the driveway from each other," said Alec Shaw, who runs a non-profit that teaches machine and welding skills. 

Since Shaw has no classes currently, he is using his high-pressure water jet to cut shields, producing 20 every two minutes. 

"There are lots of different ways to get things done and we all have different capabilities," said Shaw, "so we're just trying to crank them out as fast as we can."

A Facebook page, the Marinship Emergency Medical Manufacturing Group, keeps everyone in the loop.

A GoFundMe page accepts donations to purchase more plastic, which is becoming more expensive and difficult to find. 

But the shield-makers find the effort and expense well worth it.

They have received dozens of emails, photos and calls from medical staff now wearing their shields.

"They are literally in tears thanking us for giving them these things," said Bradley, "so it's pretty heartwarming to get that feedback." 

He doesn't see demand letting up anytime soon.

"It's pretty scary, watching a tidal wave come at us," said Bradley, "but it just seems this is the time to step up."