A West Virginia engineer is doing his part to help slow the spread of COVID-19, one face shield at a time.
Over the last few weeks, Jeff Smith has kept busy by producing hundreds of protective face shields with his 3D printer and donating them to frontline workers around his community.
“These health care workers, these frontline people, they don’t have the equipment they need. They’re desperate for anything to cover their face and protect them,” he tells PEOPLE. “So I thought one day, ‘I can do that. I can make a shield that works.'”
Smith, who works as a project manager for an engineering firm, says he’s had 3D printers for years, but recently started using one with a larger bed to create these plastic shields that will cover the health care workers’ faces.
“[The shields] protect them from splashes or airborne items that would attach to the shield instead of attaching to their face and thus transmitting any kind of bacterial diseases,” he explains, noting that the material he uses is thinner, flexible and disposable.
Though he’s been limited on the materials he can obtain, Smith has managed to produce “a couple hundred” shields — all of which he says have been donated to local hospitals, EMS, police officers and other first responders.
“There was a big push in the 3D printing community to step up and to help out and to make things and items that are useful,” he says. “It’s amazing. … With the limited materials that I’ve got, I didn’t expect to make a couple hundred of these.”
“You’ve gotta work with what you’ve got,” Smith adds.
The engineer notes that the response to his donations have been “amazing,” though he was surprised at how many people actually needed them.
“I was really moved by the response and the people needing these,” he says. “I was shocked that all these people didn’t have this equipment and the fact that I could, with what I’ve got around my house, put this together and protect someone.”
RELATED VIDEO: Doctors and Nurses Are Having ‘Hard Discussions with Their Families’ About Worst-Case Scenarios During Pandemic
Doctors and Nurses Are Having 'Hard Discussions with Their Families' About Worst-Case Scenarios During Pandemic
"We're going to have a higher fatality rate among our health care workers," Dr. Esther Choo warns
As for those who want to join his efforts or contribute in other ways, Smith says it’s crucial to get started immediately.
“Don’t wait! The longer you wait to get involved, the more behind the curve we’re going to be,” he urges.
“Not everybody [has a 3D printer or the capabilities] — I understand that,” Smith continues. “But everybody can help in their own way and what they can contribute.”
“We need that now in our country, we need that in our local communities,” he adds. “People stepping up and helping where they can.”
As of Monday, there have been at least 357,036 cases and 10,522 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. In West Virginia, at least 345 cases and 4 deaths have been reported, according to the outlet.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.