Just like during WWII, companies throughout our country have stepped up to help fight the most recent battle against COVID-19. Locally, we’ve seen retooling and innovation from companies to equip our frontline workers and the entire community with the personal protective equipment (PPE) we need to be safe. On Wednesday, more than 40 companies were recognized by U.S. Representative Fred Upton for their work to support our community during the pandemic.
“As we celebrate the anniversary of the end of WWII today, just like we had Rosie the Riveter and everyone really stepped up to help, people have stepped up again, certainly throughout Southwest Michigan, to make sure the resources are there and provide something that’s demanded by citizens of all walks of life,” said Representative Upton. “Not only did it protect the folks they provided it to—the health care workers, first responders, students—but it also provided jobs.”
Organizations, both big and small, joined Representative Upton in the courtyard at Southwest Michigan First to discuss the initiatives they have put in place and the impact they have seen on their businesses. Josh Cook and his team at Green Door Distilling transitioned from creating craft spirits to making hand sanitizer which has been distributed throughout Kalamazoo.
“We all saw this as an opportunity to do something good in our community. Sometimes alcohol production can come with a stigma, so this was a great opportunity to take something that the community needs and pivot to make sanitizer,” said Josh. While over-the-counter hand sanitizer contains 60 to 65 percent alcohol, the distilleries that were given permission to create sanitizer were held at a higher standard of 80 percent alcohol content. Josh said the team found the transition to be fun and fulfilling and that he’s honored to receive the recognition. “It makes you feel good at night to know that someone is recognizing the good you’re doing in the community and the focus of putting the public health over profits to do what we could to help.”
Pfizer was also acknowledged with a certificate for the work the organization is doing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Currently, the company has 23,000 patients enrolled in vaccine tests and plans to know by the end of October if the vaccine will be successful. The company has already begun manufacturing hundreds of thousands of doses with 24/7 operation concurrent with the clinical trials. Inside the factory, “It’s all green lights and excitement is in the air”, described Pfizer Communications Leader Teca Lewellyn.
“We don’t have time to wait two to three weeks for airfreight delivery for a piece from Europe. We have a day. So, that’s when you get creative and you send the corporate jet to Europe to pick up one piece of equipment,” said Teca. “This is what you need to do to go fast. You need to think differently. You need to step up. You need to be a leader.”
Throughout this process, Representative Upton has worked closely with Pfizer to stay up to date on the progress of the vaccine. “Sometimes you get caught up in the day to day, and it’s nice to take a step back. This is one of the first tangible things that I get to go back and share with our colleagues,” said Teca. “It’s not the reason we do it, but it feels really good.”
While the future needs of PPE are unknown, the companies in our region remain dedicated to supporting the safety of our community.