So far, they’ve gotten a small chain in D.C. on board. They’re leveraging that connection to get to bigger grocers like Safeway and Whole Foods. They also want to work directly with Giant Eagle, says Sussman.

“Retailers are at the front lines of this, just like healthcare workers,” notes Sussman. “We need them to be focused on making sure the supply chain is intact, keeping their employees safe, and ensuring folks know what’s on the shelves and what’s not.”

More hand sanitizer

The need is so great for hand sanitizer that anyone who can make it, should.

Harmar-based Thar Process makes CO2 extraction and purification technologies. They’ve started making travel-size and bulk 32-ounce hemp hand sanitizer, from organic ethyl alcohol and hemp extract, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

The plan is to distribute it to front line medical workers and public safety officials, but the first recipient is the Light of Life Rescue Mission on the North Side.

All supplies related to sanitization and protective equipment are in short supply,” says Thar’s President Todd Palcic, who lives nearby in the Mexican War Streets. “And where there is supply, many companies or so-called middlemen have increased prices. While washing hands is always most effective, homeless people don’t always have access to sinks.”

Face masks

The need for face masks is particularly acute right now. A lot of people are volunteering their skills to help supply them, like Operation Face Mask Pittsburgh and Mask Makers PGH.

Abram’s Nation is one local company that’s trying to help fill the gap. The Pittsburgh-based maker of The Safety Sleeper and other products for special needs families is creating templates and supplies for those with sewing machines to make face masks. Volunteers are being asked to sew the masks and return them to the company’s headquarters in Gibsonia, to be finished with binding. NEXTpittsburgh profiled their efforts here.

Day Owl Face Shield.

Backpacks to face shields

The Homewood-based backpack maker Day Owl has quickly turned its backpack factory into an assembly line for 50,000 medical-grade face shields, to add another layer of protection for healthcare workers in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

They are worn over the N95 masks, which have been in such short supply. Without a face shield, the masks must be discarded after every patient interaction. The shields allow them to last longer.

Highmark has purchased 30,000 face shields to distribute to nurses, doctors and healthcare workers with the Allegheny Health Network. The project is supported by The Heinz Endowments, Henry L. Hillman Foundation and Richard King Mellon Foundation.

The Day Owl team rushed to source 30,000 square feet of plastic from California, and 11 miles of elastic from North Carolina. The face shield was designed quickly by the Pittsburgh nonprofit makerspace Protohaven.

“That’s almost an elastic half-marathon,” says Day Owl founder Ian Rosenberger. “I believe it was about to become underwear when we rescued it.”

Ten workers, mostly from Homewood, are working on the project.

“It feels great knowing that we can partake in assembling a product that will help people in the medical fields, public service and even civilians who spend their days helping others,” said Brenda Joy Ponti of Homewood, a Day Owl stitcher.