Powell business stretches to help medical professionals

Sandra ClarkOur Town Health, Powell

(Update: Writer error – It’s 40,000 to 60,000 face shields per DAY.)


DeRoyal Industries is expanding production to meet growing demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian DeBusk, president/CEO of DeRoyal, said the pandemic has had a whipsaw effect on his business. While the demand for its traditional products such as orthopedics and wound care has leveled, the need for medical masks and face shields has exploded.

Brian DeBusk

“We need to produce 40,000 to 60,000 face shields per day,” said DeBusk, and that’s a challenge since the formed plastic production process is hard to automate. So, DeRoyal has pushed production into every available space, even the company gym.

Based in Powell, DeRoyal has grown to employ 1,900 people in 21 facilities in six countries. It’s truly a global enterprise. And DeBusk, who talks country but holds a doctorate from Vanderbilt University, shows the can-do approach that built the business.

In early March, company leaders provided a template and asked every department to make a plan for keeping employees healthy – in two days. They did. One day DeBusk noticed some sales interns looking for work; he put them to making face shields.

The fast-spreading novel coronavirus caught the world by surprise. Hospitals in hot spots like New York City were quickly overwhelmed by patients and lack of equipment.

DeBusk said there’s a shortage of materials to make fabric-based surgical gowns and masks. Most of the fabric comes out of China. When masks designed for single-use are pressed into service for a day or longer, the doctors and nurses working directly with patients often use a plastic face shield over the mask.

DeBusk says pent-up demand will drive sales for traditional DeRoyal products after the COVID closures are eased. But his team knows that reopening businesses may lead to a second wave of COVID-19. In an interview with WATE-TV anchor Lori Tucker, DeBusk called it “a bittersweet business boom.”

Meanwhile, DeBusk is thrilled with the DeRoyal people. “They’ve been great.” And a priority is keeping them safe from the virus.

We scrub down all surfaces frequently and sanitize the timeclock after each person touches it, he said. We offer face masks to all employees, and have split lunch into three shifts to allow social distancing. “So far, so good.” Only one employee (in Camden, South Carolina) has tested positive for COVID-19 and that person has recovered.

DeRoyal has not yet done employee temperature testing, but the company did “redouble” this conversation – “If you are sick, stay home” – and is offering extended leaves of absences.

Previously reported

The Tennessee Pledge – the state’s plan to keep us safe from COVID-19 while rebooting the economy –is worth a look, especially for the graphs and stats. Read it: Tennessee Pledge

Free Wi-Fi is available in the parking lots of six senior centers in Knox County. Locations: Free WiFi

Knox County libraries are closed, but online service continue. Details here.

Medicare patients can get current information at Medicare and Coronavirus

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn has released a comprehensive COVID-19 guide. Click here.

All areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, excluding the Foothills Parkway and the Spur, are closed until further notice. This includes trail and road closures. Details are here.

Health Department Hotline: 865-215-5555

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Info updated as it becomes available.

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