Coronavirus outbreak spurs local business owners and researchers to innovate

The COVID-19 outbreak has spurred local business owners and researchers to innovate.

At St. David's North it was taco Thursday, a change-up served up by Tom Ramsey. He owns the taco-man food trailer business. "We all teamed up, got ready, said no, no, we are going to have to get outside the box and figure out a way to make a difference," said Ramsey.

Ramsey and his crew went to the hospital to deliver 150 meals to hospital personnel. That job is keeping his business open and his employees working. He also plans to expand to other hospitals. 

"There is no way I'm just going to step down, I’m going to step up," said Ramsey.

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This taco delivery is financed by Rebecca Contreras who owns an IT company and her husband who runs a local nonprofit.

"So we called him up and said, hey, we'd like to keep your employees working, he was actually going to give us a discount and we said no we want to pay full price because we want you to pay your team full price," said Contreras.

While lunch was served at the hospital, Robert Gonzales was working on another delivery for medical teams. Up until a week ago, he made window tint and sound systems. But that changed after he got a call to help make protective face shields. It is part of a nationwide effort by others in his industry.

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"Once we found something we could do to keep our hands busy doing, we jumped right in so let's do as many as we can," said Gonzales.

His equipment has already produced more than 500 shields. Another 1,500 are in the pipeline. A GoFundMe site has been set up to help offset the costs. Some of the shields have been sent as far away as New York.

"At this point, its an assembly line but what really feels good is when they get in the hands of people, you can't explain that feeling, it's humbling and makes you want to cry," said Gonzales.

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Several face shields were picked up Thursday by Roger Ferris. He has family members working in local hospitals and having them now in hand, means a lot. "Its a little more comfort that they will be protected, and by them being protected their children, we interact with them and we will be protected also," said Ferris.

A modified ventilator built by UT Austin engineers is another example of medical innovation. It's special because it's powered by a windshield wiper motor taken from a Toyota Camry. The device is currently undergoing testing, with plans to allow anyone to use the design to make low-cost ventilators. This and the other innovations are examples of how solutions can be found. It's an accomplishment that's pretty special for Julie Ferris.

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"In a way it is surprising, but it is a good surprise to see people stepping up this way," said Ferris.

The UT team includes researchers from UT Health San Antonio. The team is part of a national group of innovators called the bridge ventilator consortium.



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