Thermoformed Plastics of New England founder Paul Tyson, Biddeford Deputy Police Chief JoAnne Fisk, BPD evidence technician Matthew Baldwin and Biddeford Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Duross pause for a photo as they load plastic face shields manufactured in a collaboration between TPNE and Alene Candle of Milford, New Hampshire. The Biddeford company is donating 12,000 face shields to first responders and medical facilities to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — Area first responders, medical workers and others on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic are a bit safer these days as they go about their jobs, with the donation of some newly manufactured plastic face shields with a very local connection.

COVID-19 is thought to spread from person to person mainly by respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The face shields create a barrier.

Paul Tyson, founder and General Manager of Thermoformed Plastics of New England, displays a finished face shield produced in a collaboration between his company and Alene Candle of Milford, New Hampshire. The company donated 12,000 shields to first responders and medical facilities and has ramped up to produce 600,000 more for various customers in New England and Pennsylvania. Tammy Wells Photo

“These will help protect us from any splash, or any in person contact,” said Biddeford Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Duross.

Duross was speaking of the new shield created by Biddeford manufacturer Thermoformed Plastics of New England, in concert with one of its customers, Alene Candle, which is assembling the shields in its Milford, New Hampshire, and New Albany, Ohio, manufacturing facilities.

TPNE, located in the Biddeford Industrial Park, provides the formed plastic for the shields, which is based on a Johns Hopkins University design, said company founder and General Manager Paul Tyson. The finished shields are 11 inches wide and eight inches long, are coated with an anti-fogging agent, and sport a foam cushion for the forehead and an elastic strap.

TPNE has recently donated 1,000 of the face shields to Biddeford police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. The company has also made donations to Southern Maine Health Care, Central Maine Health Care, Hospice of Southern Maine, Hospice of New Hampshire and New Communities, which operates senior assisted living facilities along with group homes and programs designed for people with intellectual disabilities. In all, about 12,000 of the shields will be donated to various first responding agencies and health care facilities.

As well, he offered to donate plastic to those  in Maine making face shields on 3D printers.

“This effort is about teamwork in a time of national crisis,” said Tyson. “Two weeks ago, we realized the need for face shields, and we immediately knew we could help address the shortage. ”

Working together with Alene, they set about to produce the face shields.

As well as the ones they’re donating, TPNE has orders to produce 600,000 shields, destined for vendors in New England and Pennsylvania.

“We’ve had several requests for the shield … and requests to partner,” said Tyson of the company’s efforts to produce shields for donation and for vendors. “We have said yes to all of them as long as the companies are committed to donating their efforts. For those who are fulfilling contracts, we have said we will support their efforts as long as they are selling their product at market rates. We have orders for over 600,000 shields to produce in the next several weeks. We are going to use all of our resources to make sure we facilitate the production of as many face shields as possible.”

TPNE was expected to complete contracts for manufacture of other products last week, and then convert to producing the formed plastic portion of the shield. Tyson said the company can produce 50,000 a day when fully ramped up.

TPNE was founded by Tyson in 2003. The company, which has about 15 workers, produces an array of formed plastic implements and receptacles for the medical, defense, retail and food industries — from parts designed to protect a laser sighting system, to sterile medical containers and more.

Duross, Biddeford Deputy Police Chief JoAnne Fisk, and Matthew Baldwin, the police department’s evidence technician, took delivery of the donated shields a week ago.

These days, said Duross, EMS personnel wear the masks as a matter of course, and are more conscious than ever of patients displaying signs of respiratory illnesses.

He said EMS calls are first screened by a dispatcher, who asks a series of questions, and then again by responders when they reach the scene.

Duross said while Maine EMS, York County Emergency Management Agency, Maine Emergency Management Agency and the Maine CDC has been making personal protective equipment available, supplies have been limited.

Fisk, of the police department, agreed.

“We were in dire straits for a while,” said Fisk. “We can’t thank him enough.”

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