Keusch Glass shifts business in pandemicApril 1, 2020
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — Tim Keusch never imagined that his Jasper business, Keusch Glass, would one day make products aimed at curbing the spread of a national pandemic.
But on Monday, in the midst of the wave of COVID-19 spreading across the country, he received price inquiries from hospitals in Florida, New York and Illinois — all for items that protect lives.
The company has tweaked its business model to now include the production of barriers that shield from the spread of disease. It has been making plexiglass sneeze guards for local businesses and post offices, and will soon begin manufacturing acrylic plastic boxes that safely separate doctors providing care and the patients that need it the most.
“It’s really starting to get real,” Tim said of the novel coronavirus. “And heck, we’re just happy we can keep people employed, and also protect all the nurses and doctors out there. That’s the biggest part.”
About a week ago, a group of physicians and nurses at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center reached out to Keusch Glass with a photo of a transparent, hard plastic box — and a request. Could Tim make these?
He said yes. A handmade sample was created, inspected and handed over to the Jasper hospital.
“Basically, the box is used to intubate patients, which is a procedure that’s used when a patient can’t breathe on their own,” hospital spokesperson Melanie Powell wrote in an email. “The physicians and staff wear appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) during this procedure but the box provides an additional layer of protection.”
The first prototype required some modifications made by the Memorial Hospital Facility Services team and the second prototype from Keusch Glass was delivered Tuesday. Though it has not been used on a patient, emergency department physicians at Memorial have tested the equipment and believe it’s a good concept.
After a photo of the prototype went up on the Keusch Glass Facebook page on Friday, the calls came pouring in. That’s when Tim knew that the boxes, which are placed around the heads of patients that medical professionals are treating to create a barrier between the parties, could be produced and sold in large quantities.
“It seems like it’s taking off,” Tim said Monday morning. “And with our other business, we do windows and door replacement. That’s obviously slowing down, so we thought if this would pick up, it could help keep our guys employed, and we could just go from there.”
Interest has exploded from hospitals across the country. With supplies drying up, Tim purchased a skid of materials that will allow his business to make 450 to 500 of the boxes.
“I don’t know how this is gonna go,” he said Tuesday, “but I’m starting to get pretty pumped about it.”
The boxes are designed so that medical personnel can stand over patients while they treat them. Two, 5-inch hand holes are cut out of the quarter-inch plastic, meaning — “if the patient ever coughs or does whatever, it won’t go directly into the doctor or nurse’s face,” Tim explained. “It kind of protects them and forces it away from them.”
“Having local companies change in the blink of an eye to assist with production of health care supplies is remarkable,” Powell said, also mentioning Kimball International, who produced more than 100 face shields for the hospital at no charge.
The first order of the Keusch Glass boxes was placed Tuesday. They will go to a hospital in Indianapolis. The local business has been producing another type of barrier, too, that you might see popping up at businesses across the county.
Called sneeze guards, the slices of quarter-inch, acrylic plastic rest on countertops and separate employees from customers.
Late Tuesday morning, Tim installed a 4-by-3 sneeze guard at the Mailboxes & Parcel Depot on Jasper’s north side. Cathy Siebert, the depot’s owner and manager, explained that she wanted to have the barrier installed to protect herself, her employees and her customers.
“Especially retail businesses, if you’re having one-on-one contact within close proximity, it’s essential,” Siebert said. “We can’t be too careful at this point in time.”
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