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Iowa prisoners help make protective gear, hand sanitizer during COVID-19 pandemic

2,400 gallons of hand sanitizer have been produced so far
Credit: Iowa Dept. of Corrections

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Iowa's prisoners are being put to work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the state. Nearly 500 Iowans have tested positive for the virus, and the governor called on everyone to do their part to mitigate the spread of the disease.

Over the last few weeks, prisoners at Iowa's correctional facilities have been making gowns, masks, hand sanitizer, and other protective personal equipment for Iowans all over the state. At the Iowa Correctional Facility of Women in Mitchellville, 2,400 gallons of hand sanitizer have been produced so far. Expansion of the production line has occurred and was put into service the week, ramping up production of 4,500 gallons of hand sanitizer a week. Deliveries have been made to nine DOC institutions, eight judicial districts, five DHS institutions, the Iowa Vets Home.

Mask and gown production is underway at the Fort Dodge correctional facility.

"We have produced 2,243 gowns so far and delivered 1,346 to the DOC institutions, 8 JD's, and tomorrow to SEOC for the State's stockpile," said Cord Overton, spokesman for the Department of Corrections in a statement to Local 5. "We're now producing 200 per day."

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More than 1,000 masks of the so-called Olson Design have been produced at the facility as well. Deliveries to the state stockpile will start next week.

"2,400 kits of cut components and instructions to build sneeze shields were sent out to the institutions today, so that they can produce locally as well," said Overton. "Our production goal is 2,000 per day. These will be delivered to institutions and CBC's first, and then deliveries will be made to the state stockpile."

Face shields have been a challenge to make because of lack of materials. Plans to start producing them are underway and should be in production soon. 

"The staff and the incarcerated men and women of the Iowa Dept. Corrections and Iowa Prison Industries are diligently working to help fight back against the COVID-19 pandemic," said Overton. "Several weeks ago the department began aggressively implementing strategies to prevent and mitigate the impact of the virus in the prison system, and then began turning its attention on helping out the rest of the state."

The production of hand sanitizer, under the supervision of IPI Director Dan Clark and IPI Manager Justin Opfer, has been made possible by partners across the state, including the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Templeton Rye Distillery, Iowa Alcoholic Beverage Division, the FDA, and TTB.

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