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Local supplier struggles to keep up with PPE stock

Brown proposes plan to tackle shortfall in US

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Chuck Clauss of Warren, an employee at US Safety Gear Inc. in Warren, packs blue Nitrite powder-free gloves into a box for shipping. The gloves are in high demand right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the company has plenty in stock, according to CEO Tarry Alberini.

WARREN — Hand sanitizer, gone. N95 masks — the protective masks medical personnel desperately need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — the same, out of stock.

That’s the situation at US Safety Gear Inc., a supplier of personal protective equipment to construction and other industries across the U.S., according to company CEO Tarry Alberini, who said the novel coronavirus pandemic has slowed to a trickle deliveries of certain items.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, now is proposing a plan to the White House to address the shortage of personal protective equipment needed by health care workers.

Maker of the masks, 3M — with which Alberini said he spends about $1 million per year on the respiratory devices — ramped up production to meet the medical demand in the fight against the virus, first abroad and happening now in the U.S., too.

It’s a move “I completely concur with,” Alberini said.

Still, having no masks coming into the company’s Enterprise Drive NW distribution center poses the problem of keeping his customers in other industries adequately supplied and working.

“We’re built for this type of business … it’s just right now the level of awareness has increased because of the coronavirus,” Alberini said.

In huge demand, of course, are the masks and hand sanitizer. But also in demand are disposable nitrile gloves, disposable lab coats and disposable coveralls — all of which Alberini said the company has in abundance. There has been some demand for safety glasses, but not as high as the other items.

Locally, demand is high from police and fire departments and emergency medical service companies for the disposable gloves and coveralls. Fortunately, Alberini said, US Safety Gear can supply those items because of the inventory store at the warehouse.

“Again, this is our business. This is what we are built to do. People say, ‘You have this in stock?’ — but we have this in stock all year,” Alberini said.

The company ships to all 50 states; its website gives it a worldwide presence, and so far, US Safety Gear has gotten multiple inquiries from places in Canada and in Europe.

“One thing we do is we have to filter out who is legit, who is not legit,” Alberini said. “The first goal is to take care of existing accounts who have been faithful for all these years.”

Brown’s plan

Meanwhile, Brown is proposing a nine-step plan to the White House to address the shortage of PPE needed by health care workers.

His proposal would require, in part, a designated government official to oversee coordination, acquisition and development of PPE, medical devices and other supplies; establishing a PPE and medical device database to monitor supply and anticipated need of PPE; creating a hotline to give domestic producers information from the database and need for devices; and immediately giving money to manufacturers to buy new equipment, retool or hire more workers to accommodate the increased need for supplies.

The plan also calls for streamlining contract and certification procedures to cut down on any possible delivery delay, giving workers in PPE industries a waiver of shelter-in-place requirements and providing purchase guarantees and delivery help to communities and medical facilities that need the products most.

“We know our country has the workers, the expertise and the resources to fight this pandemic. We must immediately mobilize America’s vast manufacturing capacity to rise to this challenge,” Brown said.

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