Millbrook engineer creates and donates PPE
MILLBROOK — Inventor and engineer Greg Loibl usually spends his days running Revolutionary Cooling Systems, Inc., (RCS) the company he co-founded in 1996 to produce the Cooper Cooler, the wine cooling system Loibl created with his college co-advisors in 1992, when graduating from Cooper Union in New York City. When not working on the manufacturing and distribution of the patented household electric appliance, which is sold at such retail chains as Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Walmart, Loibl might be working on his Stock Chiller line of products, used in the food industry to quickly and safely chill liquid food products. Or, perhaps he might be working on his HVAC business, which installs and services cooling and heating systems in homes and businesses throughout the Hudson Valley.
These days, however, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Millbrook resident is putting his engineering skills to a more altruistic use — manufacturing face shields for health care workers on the front lines and others trying to stay safe, and then either donating them or selling them for next to nothing.
“I just know manufacturing, and I just get it. I’ve seen it and I’ve done it; I’ve been on the assembly line oversees,” said Loibl from his Poughkeepsie factory last week, where roughly five workers help assemble the face shields every day, according to his specs. “To be able to quickly do it, I was happy about it.”
On Sunday, April 12, Columbia County Director of Emergency Management David W. Harrison Jr. addressed the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the difficulties its causing during the health crisis.
“During daily statewide conference calls, it’s become apparent that many counties are frustrated with the lack of medical emergency personal protective equipment deliveries coming from the New York state stockpile,” he said. “Counties are working to purchase PPE on their own, but vendors differ and the delivery times are extended. In the meantime, as top level New York state and federal officials say there is enough PPE for everyone, the counties are not seeing this and our hospital, nursing homes, emergency services personnel and other healthcare providers are still in great need of PPE.”
Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell agreed, adding the lack of PPE is not being adequately addressed by lawmakers.
“It’s concerning that our state and federal leaders are saying that there’s plenty of PPE for everyone, when clearly there is not,” he said. “There’s a disconnect going on somewhere.”
Loibl said making the PPE “is not hard at all.” He’s able to produce 1,000 face shields a day, he said, though he hasn’t made more than a couple of hundred a day thus far. Since the moment he researched the design, things have been moving swiftly, said Loibl.
“We made a sample Thursday of last week, and we did our first pilot production on Friday. We then made our first delivery Saturday,” he said. “It was all within last week. It wouldn’t have come together this quickly if we were busy with a lot of other stuff, but since business has come to a complete halt, we were able to get on it and do it right away, and we’re going to modify the design as we go. There are a lot of companies out there doing it. If somebody needs it, we’ll do it too.”
To make the face shields more accessible to those who need them most, Loibl’s wife, Laura, set up a GoFundMe account.
“It was our thought to sell them inexpensively to hospitals, pharmacies and other facilities,” she explained. “Through my discussion with health care workers, I have learned that most of them have to purchase shields, masks and other PPE with their own money. I was appalled that health care employers were not providing basic safety gear for their health care employees.
“I have created this GoFundMe to support the cost of the materials and labor so that we can mass produce and donate these to the health care workers exposed to COVID-19,” she added, noting “it should be our duty to support them in any way possible.”
The face shields, it was explained, can help extend the life of face masks, which are extremely hard to come by these days. Additionally, the face shields are “safer and easier to wear than goggles” and provide full-face protection.
So far, the RCS face shields have gone to a nursing home in Westchester County, to Westchester Medical Center and to Kingston Hospital, as well as to local doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other people looking for protection against COVID-19.
“It alleviates a good amount of stress for them because they don’t have enough PPE,” said Laura. “It’s a great thing to go do and people are so appreciative. This may be the best thing we’ve ever done. To help people stay healthy is important and these health care workers are getting sick left and right; they’re not being treated very well. So it feels great. It feels great because they’re so relieved.”
“It was good to give the PPE; they were all excited because they didn’t have anything,” added her husband. “If people are in need, and need a face shield, and don’t have the money to pay for it, we have the GoFundMe page. We have the money from there, so we’ve been giving them away, but if somebody calls and needs 500, it’s not a GoFundMe situation.”
The wholesale cost for a case of face shields is $5 per unit; the cost for a single shield is between $8 to $10.
His next move, said Loibl, is to make ventilators for hospitals in need.
“It’s not something I ever thought I would do,” he acknowledged. “I just downloaded the plans. I started working on it a couple of weeks ago and I saw the complexity of interfacing with the patient, because I don’t need to make something that will kill somebody — I need to help the patient. But I just downloaded plans from Syracuse and am going to put one together. If I get orders, I will make them. It will take at least a week because I have to get the components from different sources. That will be biggest issue.”
Anyone interested in buying a face shield may go to RCS at 47 Overocker Road in Poughkeepsie, call 845-337-4812 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on how to donate to the GoFundMe account, call Laura Loibl at 845-242-4007.