For more than 50 years, Faulkner Plastics in Hialeah has been a staple of South Florida's plastic industry, making a variety of products such as boat windows and signs. Last week, however, the company began producing an item it had never made before: face shields.
"Business is booming," said Joey McCabe, the company's vice president. "We don't want to celebrate it because we would rather be making boat windshields, but it has given us the ability to survive and to fill a need that we think is important."
Face masks are currently in high demand, as they are needed by first responders and healthcare workers who face being exposed to the novel coronavirus.
That's why the workers at Faulker Plastics re-purposed and reprogrammed their machines to start producing the shields. The first order, which was completed last week, went to first responders.
McCabe said the company is producing 6,000 shields a day, with workers working 24 hours every day of the week.
Local hospitals, municipalities, assisted living facilities, retirement homes and small medical facilities have all placed orders for thousands of masks, as well as members of the public concerned for their and their loved ones' well-being.
One example is Jonan Diaz, whose wife is a nurse in South Florida who has not been provided with a face shield by the government or the hospital she works at.
"They should (provide her with a mask) but they are not going to," Diaz told NBC 6. "I'm not going to wait for the hospital or the government to provide, because all this time she is being exposed."
The distribution of medical equipment is crucially important right now in South Florida as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise statewide and hospitals brace for an influx of patients, but McCabe said he did not want "hero accolades" for having produced the face masks, since the decision ultimately allowed his company to survive in a time of severe economic uncertainty.
"This saved my 50-year-old family business, and 30 employees who were going to be out of work," McCabe said.