Sneeze-guard makers can’t keep up with huge demand

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(AP/WBTW) – As the economy reopens, plastics firms are working overtime to meet record demand for ‘sneeze guards’ to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Plastics fabricators say they’re seeing unprecedented demand for transparent plastic barriers from stores, restaurants, offices and other workplaces to keep employees and customers safe.

Airport Home Appliances, a retail chain in the San Francisco Bay Area, has ordered protective barriers for its warehouses, offices and stores.

“So just to make everyone feel really comfortable, both are our sales staff and the customers, we’ve installed sneeze guards in all our showrooms,” said Kris van Eeghen-Stoddard, whose family owns Airport Home Appliances, based in Hayward, California.

TAP Plastics, which has stores in California, Oregon and Washington, it can’t keep up with demand for plastic barriers, which began with hospitals when shelter-in-place orders were first issued.

“The amount of of guards that we are making is phenomenal. Thousands and thousands of guards are being made and we cannot keep up with demand. Of course, everybody wants them to open and we can’t make them fast enough,” said Russ Miller, who manages TAP Plastics store in San Leandro, California, where the company is based.

Besides not having enough skilled workers, the global shortage of raw materials needed to make the plastic barriers is leading to backlog of orders.

“It’s a worldwide shortage of material right now because this demand is worldwide,” Miller said.

Grocery stores are among the largest buyers of plastic barriers, which are being installed at checkout areas to separate cashiers from customers.

“Everyone who walks in the door has, could have, may have Covid-19. And I don’t want anyone to get sick,” said Joe Trimble, owner of Encinal Market in Alameda, California.

Sneeze guards have become the main source of business at Mr. Plastics, a plastics manufacturing and fabrication company in San Leandro, California.

Businesses desperately need the protective barriers to reopen, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to buy the acrylic sheets needed to make them, said owner Mike Adelson.

“We had no idea that the sneeze guard, partitions would become such a big part of our business. And what’s been happening is it’s been harder and harder to get material. That’s been the huge challenge,” Adelson said.

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