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North Bay immigrant making face shields wants to 'give back to Canada'

The beauty is the simplicity and that it can be 100 per cent cleaned
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An immigrant from Germany and his family are busy making medical face shields in North Bay to help battle the COVID-19 equipment shortage and give forward to the country he's come to love.

Alexander Knecht is the proprietor of Bella Vita, whose services include property management, renovations, and interior design, but his passion and hobby is working with laser cutters.

So when he heard about an extreme shortage of protective equipment for front-line health-care providers he was quick to act and use his hobby for public good.

Knecht built a number of prototypes and showed them to his family doctor, Dr. Ian Cowan, a family physician in the COVID-19 clinic at the hospital.

He said he was told the hospital is already low on ventilators and protective equipment, like gloves and masks.

"I had the material for a small run in my shop, so I went home and called my supplier in Toronto and he told me he had a few sheets left, and I said I'd buy them right away," Knecht said.

"So I bought it all and picked it up then locked myself in my office and started drawing on software."

The next day, Knecht had his first mask and quickly emailed Dr. Cowan who rushed over to take a peek.

"He looked at it and gave me some recommendations about changes he would like to have."

On Tuesday, Knecht did the final version and dropped two off at the Near North Medical Clinic for testing, and, "that evening they gave me the ok that this was exactly what they would love to have."

Dr. Cowan said he would like to have 50 for the hospital and 10 for his clinic.

Within 24 hours Knecht and his family had manufactured the masks.

"I have two left hands," he laughed, "so my neighbour, who is more savvy than me, helped build a jig for the material, and I brought my two daughters and we worked on the 60 units. I'm going to make another hundred."

His company Bella Vita will buy the finished product and distribute it to other clinics. He's providing the masks to the hospital at cost.

The goal is to do 200 a day, and he has enough material for 1,000 masks. The beauty is the simplicity, and that it can be 100 per cent cleaned.

Knecht knows the real coronavirus wave has yet to hit North Bat, but he wants to help make sure local health-care providers are prepared.

He's proud of his community and so is putting "Manufactured in North Bay" on the mask he's calling "KNIGHT Shield," because he sees the doctors and nurses on the front line as "knights in shining armour."

See the KNIGHT Shield website here.

 Knecht and his wife immigrated here 12 years ago.

"North Bay has been good to us. I want to give back to the community," he smiled.

This story originally appeared on BayToday.ca.




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