Mexicans team up to produce face shields for healthcare workers

A team of almost 100 Mexican families is working together to protect doctors and nurses during the coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19: Mexicans team up to produce face shields for healthcare workers
English 17/04/2020 15:14 Mexico City Actualizada 15:47
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Two Mexican sisters are organizing other civilians to produce free face shields. It all began when Maribel Diez saw a video on Facebook in which nurse Lourdes Rodríguez Santoyo, head of nurses in the ISSSTE's Tacuba General Hospital, urged people to collect PET bottles. With them, she would make face shields so that healthcare workers in her hospital could be safer while working during the COVID-19 contingency.

“At that moment, I knew I could help,” says Maribel. If we take into account that she is a housewife and that most of her “employees” did not receive a single cent for their work, it could be said that has reasons for celebrating: When they began asking for donations, their goal was to produce 5,000 face shields.

Two weeks later, with a team made of friends, relatives, and many volunteers, they have produced almost 35,000 face shields. As a matter of fact, they say they will soon produce 40,000. “But we’re not a success case,” says Maribel. “We’ll be one when Mexico defeats the virus.”

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With her sister Rocío, Maribel created the “Donemos Caretas” (Let’s Donate Face Shields) initiative and they began a donation campaign to raise funds for their manufacture and to then donate them to health centers.

So far, they have delivered over 21,101 face shields in over 85 health centers in 15 Mexican states. Out of them, they have sent 4,000 outside the State of Mexico and Mexico City, specifically to Baja California, Coahuila, Colima, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Morelos, Nayarit, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas , and Veracruz. There are 150 health centers on their waiting list.

Nevertheless, the numbers are not as extraordinary as what is behind them: A unique production scheme based on teamwork and the will to help.

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A sui generis production line
In front of a house in the La Herradura neighborhood in the State of Mexico, a line if four vehicles await. The car in the front opens the automatic trunk; a woman gets out of the house and puts a box inside the trunk and closes it. She says something to the drive before she turns the engine on and leaves the spot free for the next car. Those involved in this exchange do not know each other. It could seem weird but these are the coronavirus times. Normality is not that normal. In this case, this is a “remote” dynamic with which a series of volunteers recruited through social media pick up the materials to help produce the face shields.

It is a production line that involves almost 100 families, beginning with Maribel’s, as Rocíos daughters are in charge of social media and deliveries logistics while her husband helps in the production. Most volunteers do not see each other’s faces but they want to help.

During the time they are available, and with the help of an instructions video, volunteers work from home to perform only one of the steps involved in the production of the face shields. The next step will be done by someone else in another house. Hence, little by little the hope of many people take shape: the face shields. Once the product is done; they are packaged in donated boxes and other volunteers are in charge of transporting them to the health centers where they were previously requested.

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Taking care of those who take care of us
Doctor María José Robles is doing a Gynecology residency. She is the niece of the Diez brothers and, since the beginning of the project, she helps them with the registry of health centers. “Those who have direct contact with patients, whether they’re nurses or doctors, look for us. We think they are the ones who will make the most of these materials,” she says. The unorthodox methods of the team have a very clear policy: It is enough to demonstrate that you work in a health center in order to get on the waiting list for the face shields. There is no paperwork.

Donemos Caretas was created with the objective of helping those who work in clinics and hospitals; from cleaning personnel, nursing aides, and nurses, to doctors and administrative staff. We want to take care of everyone working there,” says Maribel.

“Every time someone calls us from a hospital, we ask them to consider all their staff before requesting the face shields. And the first ones to call are nurses because they are the first ones to lack protection. And, of course, we ask them to be responsible with the number they request since we want to help more hospitals,” added the founder of Donemos Caretas.

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