Mask and gown

Some Wilkes County manufacturers are making changes to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

They include textile manufacturers producing personal protective equipment and liquor distillers making hand sanitizer.

Hinson & Hale

Hinson & Hale Medical Technologies Inc. on Industrial Park Road in Wilkesboro shifted nearly its entire operation to producing reusable face masks and reusable barrier isolation gowns for hospital personnel and others in professions facing increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus, said Brian Owen, the company’s director of sales and marketing. Like the hospital bed sheets, towels, scrubs (medical personnel clothing) and patient gowns Hinson & Hale normally produces, the face masks and barrier isolation gowns are made with the company’s proprietary Infused Transformed Polyester. This Food and Drug Administration-approved material, made with carbon fiber, can be safely washed with chlorine bleach and reused.

Owen said that unlike cotton material, Infused Transformed Polyester is inorganic so it doesn’t allow bacteria to thrive. It also has anti-static qualities, doesn’t pick and is fade and stain resistant, he said.

The outer layer of the triple-layered facemask, available in small/medium and large/extra-large, is made of Infused Transformed Polyester. The second layer is a filter fabric, consisting of 75% polyester staple and 25% rayon staple. The inner layer is 100% polyester. The ear loops are latex-free elastic.

The barrier isolation gowns are made with a medical barrier fabric consisting of 99.5% high-density polyester and 0.5% carbon threading that repels fluid, which Owen said is critical due to droplet precautions with the coronavirus. He added, “Our gown material is also resistant to adherence and retention of pathogens, thus preventing the spread of infections promoted by traditional health care fabrics.”

All of the components are manufactured in the U.S. and the end product is cut and sewn at Hinson & Hale’s 43,000-square-foot plant in Wilkesboro.

Owen said Hinson & Hale added employees with its shift in production and is trying to hire more either fulltime or part-time to help meet demand. Experienced industrial sewers are preferred but the company will hire and train people without experience who have good hand-to-eye dexterity, he added.

Hinson & Hale typically had about 30 people before the coronavirus pandemic hit and now could hire as many as 20 more and add a second shift, he said. “Before the coronavirus hit the United States and was in China, we made some face masks (with materials on hand) to see if it was viable…. We saw the coronavirus sparking and heating up,” said Owen.

Samples of the face masks and barrier isolation gowns were sent to distributors and the company received its first two orders for 17,000 items the first week of March. Hinson & Hale is supplying hospitals (Mission in Asheville and orders pending at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill and Duke Health in Durham), long-term care facilities, funeral homes and other facilities.

Owen said the company is getting serious inquiries from major healthcare systems across the nation. He said the State of New York inquired about assistance with a severe shortage of personal protective equipment in New York City.

Wilkes County government purchased 50 of the barrier isolation gowns for Wilkes Department of Social Services social workers when they must enter houses. County Manager John Yates noted that the county’s response to the coronavirus calls for them to enter houses as little as possible.

Owen said the company’s face masks and gowns are reasonably priced, which he said reflects the company’s goal of doing its part to help during these difficult times.

Distilleries producing hand sanitizer

North Wilkesboro-based Copper Barrel Distillery, Wilkesboro-based Call Family Distillers and Moravian Falls-based Holman Distillery are making changes to produce hand sanitizer, which is hard to find in stores due to the coronavirus pandemic.

George Smith, president of Copper Barrel, said Monday that the company will launch its new “Shineitizer” no later than Friday. He said it will be available for free in limited quantities to qualifying members of the healthcare, hospitality and service industry.

“We will also ask for donations ($10 per 12-ounce sanitizer and $15 per 25 ounces) to cover the cost of manufacturing and raise money for our #SHINEforSERVERS campaign,” said Smith. “These funds will be used to reduce the financial burden of service industry people in Wilkes County who have been displaced as a result of this pandemic.”

Smith is offering free space in the Copper Barrel parking lot to food truck owners affected by event cancellations. Afternoon or evening timeslots for food trucks can be reserved at https://bit.ly/foodtruckgig. Copper Barrel is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Tours are still being conducted for groups of up to eight people.

Laura Call, who runs Call Family Distillers with husband Brian Call, said Monday that the company should have some free hand sanitizer ready this week. “It will be a limited supply until we can get more ingredients,” she said. “We are not going to charge for this. We are just trying to help the community as much as we can.”

Call said the company has been recently working with a local chemist to get the formula right for the hand sanitizer, which must contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective against the coronavirus.

When available, the hand sanitizer will be distributed at 1611 Industrial Drive, off N.C. 268 West, while supplies last and is limited to one or two bottles per person. The distillery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

John Holman, president of Holman Distillery, posted Monday on Facebook that he will have four-ounce bottles and bulk supplies of 80% alcohol hand sanitizer available by Friday. A four-ounce bottle is $5.99, and the cheaper bulk price will be determined by volume, he said on Monday.

He advised customers to call (336-921-0386) or email (info@alcohollery.com) with their hand sanitizer needs, adding that he will outsource what he can’t make. Holman Distillery is at 385-A Hose Road, just off Brushy Mountain Road. The business is open for tours by appointment only, and offers curbside service for hand sanitizer sales.

Also in Wilkes

Kevin Greene, owner of Greene Mountain Outdoors LLC in the Mulberry community, said he is working toward adding face masks to the cut and sew textile manufacturer’s line of products. He also said that as a military contractor, Greene Mountain is listed as part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure sector.” Greene Mountain produces ATV accessories.

Cindy Bailey, office manager at Luray Textiles in North Wilkesboro, said that company is conducting tests with production of face masks and has been approached about producing surgical towels. Luray is a knitting manufacturer that makes protective products using Kevlar and Nomex, among other things. Bailey said she received a call from a woman in Maine with a dialysis association about manufacturing certain products.

Henson & Hale, Luray and other textile manufacturers are receiving surveys asking what they are capable of producing.

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