BY PAMELA FAYERMAN

A formerly empty warehouse in Surrey has been converted into a medical mask production facility.

Eternity Medical Equipment officially opens tomorrow with previews for the media, but employees have already started making masks in anticipation of full Health Canada certification. Under federal laws, Eternity said it is authorized to sell its products through an interim Medical Equipment License.

Mayor Doug McCallum said in a statement the plant at 19099 25th Avenue is a timely and positive addition to the country’s response to COVID-19:

“Having access to Canadian-made, high quality personal protective equipment (PPE) is one of our greatest tools…I commend Eternity Medical Equipment’s quick action to pivot and step up to produce medical masks here in Surrey that will protect our front line workers and most vulnerable across Canada.”

Ultraviolet light for mask sterilization.

Another source for medical masks is desperately needed as there has been a steep increase in cases of COVID-19 among healthcare professionals. Last week, I reported that in B.C., 1,500 health care workers have been infected with nurses being the hardest hit. A shortage of PPE supplies is a causative factor in infections among healthcare workers although it is often difficult to know if the source of infection is at work or in communities.

Company co-founder Jeff Wang, previously a software engineer at a Vancouver IT company, said he conceived of the plan for the facility in April when the federal government issued a call for made in Canada orders.

The lease for the 13,000 square foot plant was signed in the summer; an extensive retrofit to make it a sterile facility cost half a million dollars. The plant will focus on producing 95PFE masks – the Canadian equivalent to the American N95 mask.

Seventeen employees have already been hired and another 38 will eventually be employed. When they enter the facility, they must take an air shower before entering the manufacturing room equipped with a dedicated air filtration system, air conditioning purification system, and special exhaust systems. Air showers are tightly enclosed rooms to reduce particle contamination. The showers use high-pressure, HEPA– or ULPAfiltered air to remove dust, airborne particulates, and other contaminants from employees and their garb.

Eternity spokeswoman Sophia Cheng said Eternity submitted its 95PFE/N95 prototype called the ECAN95 to a number of labs in Canada and the U.S. for testing and inspections. They showed that the samples received virtually perfect filtration grades. Indeed, the two prototypes exceeded filtration efficiency standards set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, she said. While most surgical masks are three-ply, the Eternity mask will feature four-ply materials for extra protection.

Jeff Wang holds a box of masks manufactured in his new Surrey production facility.

The B.C. government has not yet placed any orders but the company says it has received orders from its earliest non-hospital customers – an unidentified ski resort, fire department, and retail store.

Premier John Horgan has sent his congratulations in this memo:

Eternity’s ECAN95 masks cost about $3.50 each but volume discounts will apply. As a goodwill gesture, Cheng said Eternity is donating 14,000 masks to all branches of The Royal Canadian Legion (BC/Yukon).

The B.C. government has been very busy sourcing and testing PPE supplies. It gives routine updates on PPE orders. Here’s the latest: