SpaceX is manufacturing its own hand sanitizer and face shields with plans to donate the materials to hospitals and places in need to help fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal memo first reported by CNBC and seen by The Verge. The company also plans to host a voluntary blood drive at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, and is looking into setting up drives at other SpaceX locations.
The email, sent to SpaceX employees, claims that the home-brewed hand sanitizer made by the facilities, materials engineering, and health and safety teams “complies with CDC guidelines and is effective at killing COVID-19.” The face shields are being manufactured by the same team that builds space suits and crew equipment. So far, engineers made up to 75 masks over the weekend and donated them to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to the email. The team also donated 100 Tyvek coverall suits to medical staff there. Neither Cedars-Sinai Medical Center nor SpaceX immediately responded to a request for comment about the donations.
The memo also addresses ways that the company is helping out its employees during the pandemic. For example, all food outlets at SpaceX sites are cutting their food prices in half, and the company is now letting hourly employees scan their badges to clock their hours rather than use a fingerprint scanner.
The memo, which shows support for health care workers and others in the midst of the crisis, comes just a few weeks after the company’s CEO Elon Musk made light of the pandemic. Originally, Musk said the panic surrounding COVID-19 was dumb and repeatedly tried to downplay the seriousness of the disease, telling employees in an email that they were more likely to die in a car crash than from the virus. Now, two SpaceX workers have tested positive for COVID-19, while another dozen are in quarantine. Employees at the company’s in-house school have expressed concern for their safety as they’ve been required to come into work during the pandemic, according to a report from BuzzFeed.
In the weeks since, Musk has offered to use his companies to help support patients and those fighting the pandemic. His other company, Tesla, recently bought 1,000 surplus ventilators from China and donated them to the state of California. Tesla also sent up to 50,000 N95 surgical masks to the University of Washington’s Medical Center. Meanwhile, Tesla is working with the medical device company Medtronic to start producing ventilators to help hospitals facing potential shortages as more COVID-19 patients require oxygen. Musk noted on Twitter that Tesla’s Gigafactory in New York would open “as soon as humanly possible” to start ventilator production to help the state.
Other companies, like Ford, GM, Apple, and Facebook, have also been trying to help the country’s strained health care system by donating or making desperately needed medical supplies as the pandemic worsens throughout the US.