Bay Area project builds face shields to protect health care workers


Griffin Wooldridge and Mike Wooldridge wearing their Open Source Shield face shields. Photo by Linda Wooldridge

Last week we loaded flowers and presents into the car and went to help my grandma celebrate her 80th birthday. We stood outside in the rain and sang “Happy Birthday” to her and held up flowers while she watched from inside her assisted-living facility wearing a mask. 

Her facility was on lockdown on account of the current COVID-19 viral pandemic. Since then, her facility has experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 with several residents and 14 staff members testing positive for the virus.

This situation motivates me while I help my dad build face shields to protect healthcare workers. With many hospitals struggling to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for their workers, we’re working to fill the void by making and distributing face shields in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’ve formed a project called Open Source Shield with fellow Bay Area resident Wes Garcia. 

Healthcare workers are particularly susceptible to infection, as many of them are working in close contact with COVID-19 patients. 

The World Health Organization states that this disease is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. According to a report from MIT, tens of millions of disposable face shields will be needed nationwide, each month to keep healthcare workers and their patients safe.

Our face shields are made of flexible plastic, foam weatherstripping and velcro tape. A wide, rectangular piece of transparent plastic covers the face, while weatherstripping provides cushioning against the forehead and velcro straps keep the face shield in place. 

The only tools required to assemble our face shield are a pair of scissors, a straight-edge tool, and measuring tape. Each face shield costs approximately $8 to produce. To follow the shelter-in-place guidelines and stay away from crowds, we’re purchasing as much material as possible through online retailers such as Amazon. 

“We’ve had pretty good success buying our materials from Amazon, although it’s getting harder to find plastic since we’re not the only ones trying to make face shields and other protective equipment,” Open Source Shield partner Mike Wooldridge said.

So far, our project has provided face shields to Contra Costa Health Services, Carlton Senior Living (which runs assisted-care facilities in Northern California), and Hospice East Bay, which provides care to terminally ill patients. Our face shields are also being evaluated by a hospital in Long Beach, California. 

Our goal for this project is not to profit off of the pandemic but to get our shields into as many people’s hands as possible. On our Instagram, we teach viewers how to create their own face shields by walking them through the materials needed, where to buy them and how to assemble them at home. Some of the inspiration comes from the “open source software” movement, where software code is published in the open, and anyone can freely download, use, or modify it.

Aside from helping others, making these shields has been a productive way for me to stay busy while sheltering in place. Being back home and away from Chico has made me miss my face-to-face classes and the friends I’ve made in college. Open Source Shield has been a good outlet for directing my energy and creativity.

“I believe we’re going to look back at this time with pride: where ordinary folks stepped up to help those healthcare workers who protect us,” founder Wes Garcia said.

Griffin Wooldridge can be reached at [email protected]