Helping to Keep Them Safe
by Brian Wilson News Editor
A group of areas high schoolers are doing their part to help keep area responders safe. Students volunteers, under the direction of Sheldon Phillips and Tracey Swedlund have been busy assembling full face masks which will protect responders as they assist individuals with potential infections.
Colleen Handrick of Taylor County Emergency Management has been working closely with Aspirus of Medford in preparation for the Covid-19 pandemic in Taylor County. While there haven’t been any confirmed cases in Taylor County, there have been a number of suspected cases and others that were being watched for symptoms.
With face shields and the N95 masks being diverted to harder-hit areas and in short supply, Handrick was concerned about meeting the needs of Aspirus medical providers as well as local responders.
Handrick contacted WaDal Plastics in hopes of finding a local source to produce the face shields.
Sheldon Phillips, who works as the engineering manager at WaDal got involved with the project at this point. Phillips has many years experience as a firefighter and EMT and knows the need for ensuring the safety of emergency personnel.
He explained that the key component of the face shields is the plastic lenses which protect the wearer from liquid drops that are carried on coughs, sneezes and other bodily fluids. He reached out to Tracer Imaging, a customer of WaDal’s to see if they would help.
Tracer Imaging jumped on board the project and donated 2,600 lenses, each about the size of a sheet of loose leaf paper. He noted that without Tracer’s support they would not have been able to make the project happen.
For the remaining components of the face shield, Phillips reached out to local businesses which likewise jumped on board the effort. At the same time, he came into contact with Medford Area Senior High School science teacher Tracy Swedlund.
Swedlund had been busy using the school’s 3-D printers to produce the headband pieces and had been in search of lenses for his work. The two connected and quickly came up with a design that was far quicker to produce and assemble than the 3-D printer varieties.
Phillps’ whose daughter is Katie a member of the class of 2020, reached out to other students and the school district and assembled a crew of volunteers to put the shields together.
The crew have been working in Phillips’ garage in Medford and so far have produced about 500 shields which were donated to local emergency services and healthcare services.
Phillips praised the local businesses that have come forward to help support the project and helped them secure materials. Those wishing to assist with helping with the cost of the shields may contact Sheldon Phillips at 715-965-0718.
Katie Phillips uses a homemade jig to hold the clear plastic lens in place while she uses a hot glue gun to affix a piece of foam rubber to the lens. The foam goes against the wearer’s forehead.
Sami Stolp and Jenna Klemm staple large rubber bands to the bottom and top of the shield to keep the curved shape and allow it to be worn securely.
Alexis Fleegel of Medford models a completed mask which will be donated to area emergency responders.
Sheldon Phillips the engineering manager at WaDal in Medford is working with Taylor County Emergency Management to assemble face masks for use by area emergency services when dealing with those who are potentially infected with COVID-19 or other contagious illnesses.