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Co-operation and Innovation Across the Border in the Age of COVID-19

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April 27, 2020

In time of hardship, such as the Halifax explosion of 1917 or the terror attacks of 9/11, Canada and the U.S. have always been there for each other. The current COVID-19 pandemic is no exception, and this has been particularly apparent when it comes to our highly connected and integrated economies. The examples below feature Canadian and American companies in a number of sectors adapting and working together during these challenging times, when the need has arguably never been greater.  And keep an eye out on Connect2Canada over the coming weeks for more stories highlighting the importance of continued cross-border collaboration between our people, communities and businesses.


The availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been one area of difficulty for Canadian and American healthcare workers, and those in other essential sectors, throughout the pandemic. To help provide this critical equipment to both countries, in the first week of April Volvo Trucks North America deployed two trucks from Toronto-based Speedy Transport and delivered 500,000 N95 masks to those in need across Canada & the U.S.


Typically, late-April would bring NHL playoff hockey, and we would all be glued to our couches and TVs. But with the season indefinitely postponed because of the pandemic, Bauer Hockey has adapted its assembly lines and begun making protective masks at its facilities in Montreal and Liverpool, New York. To ensure that the masks are only used by healthcare workers, Bauer is selling the masks exclusively to medical facilities in Canada and the U.S.


To help increase the number of ventilators accessible to Canadians and Americans affected by COVID-19, Ford Motor Company has revamped their manufacturing to create respirators, ventilators & face shields at their facilities in Michigan. Ford Canada has also started producing 100,000 face shields at their factory in Windsor, Ontario. The equipment will be critical in helping Canadians and Americans recover from the virus.


Canada-based FELLFAB, a manufacturer of textile products for the aircraft, train, and the defence industries, has retooled their facilities to produce critical medical products such as masks, gowns, tents, shelters, and mattress covers. Their head office in Hamilton, Ontario, is making masks, gowns and scrubs for local hospitals and government agencies. Their Fort Worth, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia facilities have partnered with Washington-state based upholstery manufacturer Kaas Tailored on a “Million Mask Challenge” to supply medical masks to the Providence Healthcare Group. And their Mooresville, North Carolina location is also producing welded and sewn shelters for COVID-19 testing centers.


Protective medical equipment – such as surgical gloves, clothing, and face shields – requires rapid sterilization when needed for frequent reuse, which has become a necessity in some areas of the U.S. during the pandemic. A process known as irradiation can sterilize equipment in less than a day when more traditional methods can take between 7-14.  In Ontario, an isotope called cobalt-60, which is essential to the irradiation process, is produced by nuclear facilities operated by Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation. Nordion, an Ontario-based company, then processes and distributes the cobalt-60 to over 40 countries worldwide, including the US, for whom it supplies the vast majority of the isotope.


Harmac Pacific’s paper mill in Nanaimo, British Columbia, is the world’s only producer of the particular grade of paper pulp used in the manufacture of surgical masks and gowns. In response to the pandemic, the company has doubled its export of the pulp to a U.S. producer of the masks and gowns. The finished products are then used by frontline workers not only in the US, but also in Canada.

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