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Texas oil field workers now helping protect medical professionals in COVID-19 fight

"I had a young lady that started crying when we handed them to her," Chris Payson said. "It really feels good to help in any way."

JACKSBORO, Texas — Jacksboro and Aledo, Texas are far removed from much of the international conversation about the coronavirus. But in a pair of workshops, a front line defense is being created one important barrier at a time.

Chris Payson runs an oil field services company called Reach Wireline from Aledo and from his home in Jacksboro in Jack County. They specialize in supporting the fracking industry in the Permian and Delaware basins with operations in both Texas and Pennsylvania. But with gasoline prices in an unprecedented decline, Payson says his staff of approximately 180 has been reduced by about 20 so far.

"When you're in Jacksboro, you always feel like you have a bubble of protection around you," Payson said when asked about economic and coronavirus concerns. "But a lot of our employees live in and around the Dallas metroplex. So the stress and I guess the nervousness about everything going on, it's as much here as it would be if you are in the middle of Dallas."

But several days ago, a doctor in Wise County, Carole-Anne Bouldin with the Wise Health System, asked if Payson's team of fabricators could make something new. She was looking for an acrylic or plexiglass containment box. 

The device, normally manufactured by several for-profit companies but currently in short supply, creates an extra layer of protection for a medical professional working with a patient who might have COVID-19. Placed over the patient's head and shoulders when they are prone on a surgical or operating table, it allows a physician or anesthesiologist access for their hands, while protecting them from the patient's breath or a sudden sneeze. 

Payson's team made a half dozen for Wise Health.

"And within two days, we had several doctors and CRNAs (certified registered nurse anesthetists) or registered nurses calling requesting them," Payson said. 

Credit: Covid-19 Containment Box Initiative

Fifty two  "COVID containment boxes" later, they have hand-delivered and shipped them to hospitals throughout Texas and as far away as Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Florida.  

They are quickly making at least 80 more, buying materials with the help of a GoFundMe page, taking requests on their containment box website, which offers blueprints and a YouTube tutorial for anyone else who might want to build the boxes.

"I had a young lady that started crying when we handed them to her," Payson said. "It really feels good to help in any way."

A spokesperson for the Wise Health System said the boxes for their ER and surgery departments "are absolutely amazing."  

"We are incredibly appreciative to have received these for our emergency room and our surgery department at Wise Health System, with special thanks to Dr. Bouldin for helping to procure them," said Shannon Spann with the Wise Health System. 

"These acrylic boxes allow for an extra layer of protection that keeps all of the droplets contained, which is extremely important during this time, while working with COVID positive or patients under investigation for any aerosolizing procedures, especially intubation. The efforts of Mr. Payson and the staff at Reach Wireline is truly appreciated!"

Credit: Reach Wireline

Appreciation for a group of oil field workers in Jack County, doing their part to fight this COVID crisis too.

"And we're going to continue to build them as long as they request them," Payson said.

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