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KC-area businesses stay busy making PPE for safe reopening

Jennie Shields
Posted at 5:00 AM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 08:01:05-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Employers in Kansas City, Missouri, must provide personal-protective equipment (PPE) to staff when social distancing can’t be maintained, according to the Kansas City, Missouri, reopening plan. But amid a national shortage, buying PPE in bulk presented a challenge.

City officials reached out to Made in KC, commissioning a website to serve as a directory of local businesses making masks, face shields and hand sanitizer.

KCPPE.com launched on May 1 and has had more than 18,000 unique visitors, according to Made in KC Co-Owner Keith Bradley.

The directory lists more than 50 local businesses, including Evie Pearl Handmade. Owner Jenni Shields started her hair accessory shop on Etsy two years ago. But when COVID-19 hit, she began making masks for her family. Realizing the demand in the community, Shields listed the PPE for sale online.

"It was so important to me to leave the medical masks for the first responders,” Shields said. “My husband is a firefighter.”

Since KCPPE.com launched, orders have poured in to Evie Pearl Handmade. April was the highest-grossing month since Shields started her business.

"I saw a huge increase," she said, "We have not been able to keep the masks in stock."

Most of Shields' sales are from employees who are required to provide their own masks.

For employers looking to protect their workers, Bradley said the online PPE directory offers an opportunity to shop locally and receive items quickly.

"You'll know what their capability is of producing that item, if they don't have it in stock,” Bradley said, “and you know that your supply chain is going to be shorter because they're items that are already here.”

The city's reopening plan also suggests that businesses require employees and customers to wear masks or face coverings. It also states that restaurant employees must wear protective face coverings in areas open to the public.

Businesses can face closure orders from the KCMO Health Department if they fail to provide proper PPE for workers who aren't able to remain socially distant from customers.

Employees who are forced to work in conditions without appropriate protection can contact the environmental health division through email at environmental.health@kcmo.org or by calling 816-513-6315.