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Local business creates walls for ‘pop-up’ medical clinics

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Kevin Winter, front and Ryan Lowry of Overhead Door haul a load of panels into the back of a semi-trailer to be unloaded. The panels are headed for Memphis, TN to build a temporary clinic for COVID-19 patients.

“It has caught on like wildfire and it’s keeping our jobs.”

That’s what James Wartinger, human resources manager at Overhead Door, 3200 Reach Road, said about the emergency orders of panels being converted into walls for “pop-up” medical clinics around the nation to lessen the burden on existing hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These steel and foam insulationfilled panels, normally used to manufacture garage doors, are made at the city plant and delivered by tractor-trailer to larger cities such as Baltimore, Maryland, and Memphis, Tennessee, as well as others across the nation, Wartinger said.

Overhead Door was kept open as an essential business after Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide mandate to close non-essential businesses — listed as essential on March 15. The business provides safety and security for individual homes and businesses and the assembly lines were going to keep rolling, Wartinger said.

But around that time, the Overhead Door distributor in Baltimore said there was a need for these garage door sections to be used to help hospitals to combat the virus outbreak.

“Besides helping people sickened by and treating individuals with the virus, Overhead Door maintains a significant amount of its workforce, or about 200 employees,” Wartinger said.

“We were keeping employees working before with garage door manufacturing for security for homes and businesses,” he said.

“I think we are really proud doing something to help,” Wartinger said. “Everyone is scared, but when you are at work and maintaining a livelihood and potentially helping with the COVID-19 issue, it feels good for us as a company.”

It is also nice to be able to make what becomes the medical clinics at the Reach Road facility, Wartinger said.

“There are plenty of folks without jobs,” he said. “We are happy to work for a company that cares that much about others and keeps us employed.”

While Lycoming County, thankfully, has not become a virus hot spot, with current numbers below 35 infected, hospitals in larger cities need these quickly-assembled medical clinics to treat patients as part of the goal of stopping its spread, Wartinger said.

“Everyone has been a team member at the plant,” he said.

Since the specialized work began in mid-March, the plant’s personnel on the assembly lines have made about 4,500 panels, with additional orders received at the facility by the day, he said.

The plant workers on assembly lines do their work proficiently.

“We have a second week of runs for Baltimore,” he said. “Now, we have orders in Memphis and other places.”

The panels are made in a smaller and larger size. One is nine-feet-long and the other is 15-feet-long.

They are typically a part of a household or business garage door. They are assembled on a line in morning and afternoon shifts and taken by trucks.

In one day, thousands of panels can be manufactured. At least 1,600 panels were recently made in short order, he said.

The panels, which do not have any hardware such as rollers or tracks on them, although some have end caps on them, are put on skids and then loaded. Other employees are involved in shipping and delivery.

Until there is a cure, the assembly lines will keep rolling out the sidewalls for the clinics, Wartinger said.

“It is all about our employees getting up every morning and afternoon and not being scared and making these every work day,” he said.

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