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Article / Helping Hands

Helping Hands.

Pictured: Jeff Strobel (Local 662) installs plexiglass partitions at the Save A Lot store in St. Clair, Missouri.
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All across Illinois, Missouri and Kansas our members are being called upon to combat COVID-19. Hospitals need help fast getting additional space built for a possible influx of sick patients. And other essential businesses have new and unique challenges during this pandemic that require professional, skilled tradespeople.
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Hospitals are in particularly urgent need as they try to stay ahead of the crisis and assess – as best they can – what the infection rate will look like in the days and weeks ahead, and how many beds they’ll need to care for people in their communities.
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In Springfield, Missouri, crews have been racing against the clock to construct a new ward-style area at Cox Medical Center South for patients suffering from respiratory illness requiring ventilator support.  Five years ago, Cox South underwent a major build that doubled the medical center's size. Several floors of a new tower were left empty so they could be developed as needs arose. That need is now here.
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Flooring Systems Inc., which worked on the original project, has been called back to help out during this time of emergency. Vice president Greg Young said an installation of this size would take several weeks to complete under normal circumstances, but his team of floor layers had just three days to meet the hospital’s accelerated deadline. “Being a national pandemic, and everyone following it in the news so closely, we’re moving real fast, but the guys are taking a lot of pride in getting this done in such a short time.”
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Being on job sites right now also means taking added precautions. Young said his company is monitoring the latest updates from the CDC, requiring face masks and more frequent hand washing on the job.
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The regional council's southwest Missouri business agent Dan Montgomery said our union members are well prepared to meet demands during this crucial time. “This is why the union is continually stressing the need for ongoing training and skills upgrades. When a difficult project has to get built, we’re ready to jump on it at a moment’s notice,” Montgomery said.
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Even non-medical businesses are finding themselves on the front line in fighting the coronavirus. Any place where the public has to visit and interact with employees requires new, inventive safety measures to help stop the spread.
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In St. Louis, one of the area’s large grocery store chains needed plexiglass barriers installed at all of its 25 stores to protect both workers and customers. Dierberg’s turned to Fixture Contracting to get the job done, building protective barriers at checkout lanes and customer service desks.
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“They knew we were working long hours and the appreciation we got from the cashiers and customers while we were out there was just amazing,” said project manager Eric Wells.
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Using a crew of 30, Fixture had two days to get all the installations completed. With the virus still spreading, and grocery stores a necessary business, the plexiglass partitions are providing much-needed peace of mind for anxious shoppers and employees alike amid all the uncertainty.  
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Fixture is now getting calls for help from Medicine Shoppe stores, as well as Safeway and Save A Lot.
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While much of the county sits idle, hoping for a quick end to this pandemic and a return to normalcy, America’s skilled tradespeople are doing their job so those on the front line can do theirs.
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In a statement posted on Cox hospital’s website, president and CEO Steve Edwards said he is praying the new ICU beds won’t be needed, but he is thankful to have construction crews available in this time of crisis to do the work.
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“These companies, their staff and skilled workers are heroes to our community by making these life-saving measures a priority,” he said.


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