The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent need, virtually overnight, for solutions in support of physical distancing and control of virus transmission.
Plexiglass shields, plastic protective barriers, barrier screens, portable temporary walls, all became must-have additions for businesses, restaurants, medical facilities – for any public-facing organization – as they grappled with the means to safely continue operation and provide services to their customers and stakeholders.
The Need for Protective Barriers
Trusscore was one of the first organizations in North America to produce a purpose-built solution. In March of 2020, as the pandemic took hold, the company quickly – in a matter of 96 hours – workshopped a free-standing temporary wall system that became known as TempWall by Trusscore.
TempWall, a PVC-based room divider panel, was based on an existing Trusscore product called NorLock, one that was already being used extensively in the livestock industry with biosecurity front-of-mind.
“One of the reasons people use NorLock in farming applications is to prevent nose-to-nose contact between the animals,” says Trusscore Co-founder and Chief Manufacturing Officer Steve Bosman.
TempWall by Trusscore quickly became a hit with hospitals and medical facilities. An instant space divider, it allowed medical administrators and personnel to quickly respond to changing conditions, such as a sudden influx of potential COVID-19 patients, for example, and create dedicated space to keep non-COVID-19 patients separated from those who might be infected.
The product, available in two sizes: 28.5” x 80” and 60” x 80,” can be configured in many different layouts, and comes with an anti-microbial coating called Aegis Microbe Shield.
TempWall: From Product Inception to Development
Today, months into the pandemic, government agencies, public health units, universities, and research facilities, have established guidelines and requirements for protective barriers to help organizations – including their own – achieve best-practices that would help reduce physical contact. The guidelines suggest barrier height, width, installation, and materials.
At the time that Trusscore created TempWall, those guidelines largely didn’t exist. In their place, Bosman says that the Trusscore team consulted with Waterloo Region doctors and hospital staff and supplemented that advice with some old-fashioned common sense.
“We tried to look at it from a practical point of view,” says Bosman. “What fits into a delivery van? What can one person handle? What sizes are doorways? We didn’t want special equipment to be needed to set it up."
“And we particularly didn’t want to make it so that the panels were difficult to get into the waiting areas of long-term care facilities. We wanted to be able to deploy them as quickly as possible to slow down the spread of COVID-19.”
A stroke of good timing helped in the product’s development. As the pandemic hit full force and most of North America entered lockdown, Bosman says Trusscore had just concluded testing of the Aegis Microbe Shield that now comes standard on every TempWall panel. As the TempWall idea was being fleshed out, the Trusscore research and development team went to work and quickly developed a cost-effective method to apply the anti-bacterial coating to the panels during the manufacturing process, and ensure the coating would adhere properly.
“There was a lot to navigate there,” recalls Trusscore R&D Director Ryan Gerakopulos. “We ended up pulling it off with production equipment that was inspired from the water misters that are used in agricultural production."
“It was basically inventive inspiration. In a very short time, we went from an idea to a fully automated production line that could conceivably run 24/7 with an antimicrobial treatment, fully integrated into our [existing] production.”
The End Result & New Applications
The end result was a product that has met or exceeded the guidelines that have been published since, and a product that has achieved a utility that extends beyond medical settings. The community of Oro-Medonte, for example, about an hour’s drive north of Toronto, recently purchased 28 TempWall panels for its community center and hockey arena facility. The panels are used to create sanitary barriers where hockey players can lace up skates, and the staff plan to eventually repurpose the panels after the pandemic is over for use as polling booths and temporary office cubicles.
“TempWall turned out to be a perfect match for what we were trying to accomplish,” says Bosman.
“When the pandemic began, we started by asking ourselves, ‘How can we help?’ And TempWall proved to be the answer.”