Nonprofit making protective gear for health care professionals out of old Lamar billboards

Billboards in Baton Rouge.

A fledgling nonprofit One Louisiana Now, founded by LSU researchers, is working to create reusable gowns and face shields out of old Lamar billboard material for Louisiana’s health care professionals responding to COVID-19. 

Last week, a New Orleans-area ER physician who needed replacement parts for a ventilator contacted Wayne D. Newhauser, director of the LSU and Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Medical and Physics Program. Moved by their story and urgency of the situation, he asked what else they needed and reached out to Trey Bowman, of the Bella Bowman Foundation, to help the team with logistics and streamlining manufacturing. 

Since then, Newhauser’s team has made clinically acceptable prototype designs of gowns, face shields, masks and replacement ventilator parts. While it took three days to make the first face shield, the team produced nearly 100 yesterday. 

“It’s time to leave my garage and go into production that will make sure every care provider in Louisiana will have a face shield and gown,” Newhauser says. “This is a moment in time where we need to band together and take care of our caregivers.” 

While a nurse or a doctor may go through some 10 to 15 disposable gowns per day to take care of a coronavirus patient, Newhauser’s team is using a vinyl material to create reusable gowns that can be sanitized with a formula also crafted by LSU researchers. 

Lamar’s billboard vinyl material is well suited for making gowns, says Newhauser. The material is not only easy to use but also environmentally friendly. 

Trey Roberts, general manager of Lamar Baton Rouge, estimates the company donated some 10,000 square feet of used vinyl. 

Lamar usually recycles the used vinyl several ways, including to a California company to be recycled into bags and other items. The stock Lamar keeps on hand is donated to community members during times of need, such as hurricanes, and now pandemics. 

“We just gave them a small amount, but told them if it works, they can have whatever they need and we’re happy to supply that to them,” says Roberts. “We didn’t think twice when they called. Anything we can do to help people on the front lies, we’re happy to do.”

The organization is currently looking for donors and corporate sponsorships. To contact the organization, email onelouisiananow@gmail.com.

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