HILLSBORO, Ore. — Intel said Monday that it will send cleanroom attire from its computer chip factories to protect healthcare workers from the coronavirus.
Hospitals around the country have warned they are running low of masks, eyewear and gloves to protect nurses and doctors from infection when they care for patients.
Intel and other chipmakers manufacture their products in pristine factories where even a microscopic dust particle could contaminate the tiny features on computer chips and wreck the products. So the factory workers dress head to toe in “bunny suits” that protect the chips from contamination by the people in the factory.
At least some of Intel’s gear can be used the other way, to protect the people wearing it from infection. Intel said it will draw from its own supplies for medical providers and will work with its suppliers to find more gear.
“We are immensely grateful to the healthcare workers who are at the front lines of slowing this pandemic,” said Todd Brady, Intel’s director of public affairs.
Intel is Oregon’s largest corporate employer, with 20,000 employees at its campuses in Washington County. The company has said its operations have been “relatively normal” throughout the outbreak, though its stock is down sharply in recent weeks – from a peak near $70 last month to $49.58 at Monday’s close.
Intel has continued operating factories all over the world and proceeded with construction on a multibillion-dollar factory expansion in Hillsboro.
Intel has allowed many employees to work from home in recent weeks but several employees and Intel contractors have expressed concern privately to The Oregonian/OregonLive that they are concerned they have been unable to maintain a safe distance from their colleagues.
Intel maintains that it is taking steps to ensure workers have a safe work environment.
When Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an order Monday requiring Oregonians to generally stay home, she specifically exempted manufacturing and construction. Brown said those industries can continue operating so long as they take steps to prevent the spread of the virus.
This article was originally published by The Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving heath issue.