This week, the World Health Organization declared a worldwide pandemic of COVID-19. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that patients as well as healthcare workers might need as many as 100- to 400-million surgical masks as well as 7,000 to 11,000 mechanical ventilators in the coming days to help prevent the disease from spreading and to treat them if they become infected.
Steve Heffernen, president of Omnimed, worries that medical equipment manufacturers might have difficulty keeping up with such increased demand. “It changes every day,” he said of the rising need, citing face masks as one example. Not only healthcare workers, but even people who don't work in healthcare are wearing them in huge numbers.
“Everybody wants masks right now,” Heffernen said. “Any place where there are large gatherings, all anybody thinks about is masks.”
Omnimed makes an adjustable face mask holder that can hold different sizes and types of masks that is flying off its shelves. “We literally sold more of these last week than we did all last year,” Heffernen said. “It’s a simple product—it’s never been a big mover, but now there’s a panic.”
He said that the holders are shipped to all kinds of places, not just medical facilities. “Hospitals, doctor’s offices, apartment buildings, restaurants—everybody wants face masks, and they want something to hold them,” he said, adding that products like these may help to slow the spread of COVID-19 and other infections. “You don’t want them just sitting on a dirty counter, so if you have a holder, you don’t even have to touch the box. You just grab them right out of the holder without touching it or getting anything dirty.”
Omnimed’s other current big seller is its Hygiene Station Bundle with Stand and Sign Holder, which offers a convenient way to organize three boxes of tissues and/or masks and a hand sanitizer. “These items are just out of control crazy right now,” Heffernen said. They are portable and lightweight and can be placed almost anywhere.
Omnimed has had to ramp up its production, Heffernen said, to try and keep up with this new demand. “We were not anticipating doing a whole year's sell of an item in one week,” he said. “We didn't have enough raw material to even start the job, but we are now getting enough raw material and we're rolling on it.”
The company’s manufacturing facility is running five days a week, 12 hours a day. However, one of Heffernen’s biggest fears is losing employees if they have to be quarantined. “We are a manufacturer—we're not Amazon or Microsoft—we produce stuff; we can't send people home to do work when we need them to use the equipment and machines that are here.”
Heffernen said his company is prepared to keep up the level of production as long as it is needed, but he does anticipate a drop off at some point. “I don't think it will last forever,” he concluded. “I think the demand for the storage products will definitely go down because eventually everyone will have a face mask holder or a stand.”