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ETC starts making protective masks for healthcare workers

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ETC Masks

MIDDLETON (WKOW) -- As hospitals continue to report a dwindling number of supplies, some people and companies are stepping up in new ways.

Known for making lights for the Oscars and Broadway, ETC in Middleton is taking on a new venture: protective masks for those on the front lines of the coronavirus.

"This is really out of our normal realm," Steven Ricks, Rigging Product Development at ETC, said.

When one of his staff mentioned that a doctor friend of his was dealing with equipment shortage, they hopped into action.

"We started looking around and found the Delve prototypes that they have been making, which is just a basic shield with just a strip of foam and elastic, and decided that's just what we need to do," Ricks said.

He says they're making 500 to 700 masks a day and so far have sent them to four area hospitals, including Prairie Ridge Health in Columbus and Saint Mary's Hospital in Madison.

"If an organization is in desperate need or can't afford them, we'll donate them," he said. "Typically we ask for $3 to offset the cost, but I think even if you look on Amazon, they're about $10 to $11 apiece."

ETC is considered essential because of the support they provide to other businesses, like broadcasters and construction, but they're branching out.

"Our equipment is starting to be used in other areas to help with the emergency response," Ricks said. "We are working with another partner for lighting for triage centers when they're setting up outdoor areas."

He says they've had to cut down on staff in the factory and are making sure everyone has their own workspace, and are spaced far enough apart.

Despite the changes, doing things like this lifts the mood.

"It helps keep our minds off of everything else that's going on and that's a big help but it's also again that sense that we're doing something to help our community," Ricks said.

Along with the masks, ricks says they're prototyping a UV light version of an existing kit they produce to be able to disinfect larger surfaces.

He expects that to be ready within a couple of weeks.

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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