Shifting gears, Minnesota woodworking company producing 1.6 million face shields for health care workers

Minnesota businesses pitch in to help get personal protective equipment - such as face shields - over to health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies across the country – and right here in Minnesota – are stepping up to make products that will keep our health care workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In fact, some local companies are putting their own production on hold to help those on the front lines. 

Woodchuck USA in Minneapolis is typically not in the medical supply business. But, over the weekend, they flipped production on its head, shifting from custom wood gifts to face shields.

“Right now, we’re making about 35,000 units a day and we’ll be scaling that from 35,000 to 65,000 by the end of this week,” said Ben Vandenwymelenberg, Founder and CEO of Woodchuck.

They currently have orders for 1.6 million units and are following guidelines that will allow the materials to get into hospitals.

“I just said, ‘we gotta try with everything we have to make this work,’ and it’s been working really, really well so far,” he said. “We got all kinds of cute designs, stuff like that.”

Meanwhile, WSI Sportswear in Eagan is going from making outdoor clothing to making medical masks. 

“We’ve got the right materials to really fulfill what the CDC is asking, especially for masks,” said Joel Wiens with WSI Sportswear.

They’re putting together mask-making kits to be put together and sent where they’re needed. 

“That’s the beauty of ‘made in the USA’ and made locally here in Minnesota,” he said.

It’s not just local businesses. Colleges like Dunwoody in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota are stepping in to get much needed medical equipment in the right hands. 

“It wasn’t a matter of ‘can we do this?’ It was more of a matter of ‘we have to do this, so how can we make this happen?'” said Rich Wagner, President of Dunwoody College.

Dunwoody is teaming up with a 3D printing company to put together face shields.

Altogether, companies are helping to give doctors and nurses a fighting chance as they fight the coronavirus.

"It’s been pretty amazing, people coming together, the country coming together," Wiens said.