Hal Daugherty passes himself off as a craftsman of no particular infamy.
“I’m just a fabrication nerd who builds things,” Daugherty said Friday in an interview in his shop.
But when Daugherty began to become concerned about the spread of the coronavirus more than a month ago, he went from contemplating retirement to refitting his entire shop at Capital Canvas to produce personal protective equipment. Frontline emergency and medical personnel have come to desperately need PPE as the United States scrambles to augment its supply of masks, hoods and gowns. Daugherty is determined to support those close-quarters contact personnel as their need for equipment becomes more dire in the coming weeks as more cases are reported and confirmed.
“I think we can get a lot of PPE for these folks when the storm comes,” Daugherty said. “These frontline people — nurses, doctors, firefighters, police officers — we can’t shortchange them. This is what they’re burning through the most.”
Daugherty isn’t alone as he works to brace for an oncoming tide of coronavirus cases.
“He kind of had the foresight, seeing what was going on in the Lower 48, to say ‘this is going to hit Juneau and the surrounding communities,’” said Melissa McCormick, who’s working with Daugherty to help him begin to supply PPE to the medical personnel of Juneau and nearby communities. “He basically started this with money out of his own pocket and stockpiling materials because he saw this coming.”
Daugherty, along with other members of the board for the Southeast Regional PPE Fabrication Facility, the name for the venture, considered what would be needed in order to produce masks, hoods and gowns that comply with protocols on preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Members of the board include teachers, doctors and nurses, all of whom lend their specific experience to making the safest, best procedures possible.
“I’m making new patterns every day, to see what’s efficient and easy,” Daugherty said. “We’re getting the pieces of the puzzle in order.”
Daugherty refitted his entire shop, culminating in taking unnecessary equipment to storage space donated by Juneau Self Storage, to comply with social-distancing guidelines and make a safe, sterile environment to produce PPE.
“I put a lot of thought into making it safe for people working here,” Daugherty said. “The shop is totally clean. I totally disassociated myself from all of my friends three weeks ago.”
With the space emptied and sterilized, Daugherty has room for a 10-foot by 24-foot sewing table that will provide a working surface for volunteers who have been screened for the coronavirus and decontaminated. They will assemble PPE with materials donated from the Home Depot and other sources. Daugherty’s goal is to assemble 32,000 cloth masks for Juneau and the surrounding environs, in addition to more specific equipment for medical and emergency personnel.
“What we’re trying to do is use the handmade masks that are washable out to the communities so they don’t end up back at Bartlett,” McCormick said. “We’re contacting Alaska Airlines and Alaska Seaplanes so we can get those sent out to the rural communities as quickly as we can make them.”
For Daugherty, the pressure is to keep up the pace, to get the group of volunteers into production as quickly as possible.
“It’s spreading like wildfire, and this is what we need. All of our goals on the board is to make as many of these as possible,” Daugherty said. “I’m going a mile a minute keeping it going.”
Daugherty is also uploading the designs for the masks and other PPE online for free as he refines them, so any shop in the world with a basic sewing setup can make their own safety equipment. Daugherty said he’s been in contact with people from Hawaii to New York to the Naval Academy, sharing the designs with others who have the ability to manufacture PPE for their own communities.
“Hopefully this will gain some traction,” Daugherty said. “Why not do some good for your community?”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or email@example.com.
Want to help?
Most of what they need is the money to purchase more of the specialized materials needed for masks and other PPE to be compliant with CDC guidelines, McCormick said. The volunteers are making no money, Daugherty said, but the shop space and bills do have a cost. To donate, go to the Healing Hands site, https://www.hhf-ak.org/ppe/, which is working with the volunteers. To volunteer or for questions, call 321-3094 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.