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CEDAR RAPIDS - A feel-good effort by a local distillery to fill the coronavirus-driven shortage of hand sanitizer for the Corridor has scaled up to support bulk orders for health care facilities, government agencies and other critical operations.
The fear now is they will soon run out of supplies.
'We've gone through several thousand gallons,” said Jeff Quint, owner of Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery. 'We may run out this week. We are scurrying around to get ingredients and containers.”
Quint, local entrepreneur Steve Shriver and Ryan Sundermann, an emergency department physician at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's Hospital, partnered to create a hand sanitizer product based on their supplies and expertise to give away free to those who need it.
They set up distribution tents outside NewBo City Market twice last week and also have supplies at Cedar Ridge, 1441 Marak Rd. NW, in Swisher. True Value Hardware, 3501 Mount Vernon Rd. SE, has a jug to provide refills.
Shriver said they've distributed about 4,000 to 5,000, 2- to 4-ounce personal use bottles. The first NewBo distribution was much busier than the second, a sign that hopefully demand is leveling off, he said.
At least 1,000 more individual bottles are available for free, and another distribution may be held at NewBo City Market, he said.
News and social media publicity surrounding the effort caught the attention of larger operations scrambling for cleanser to sanitize hands and surfaces.
Government agencies, hospitals, the postal service and others came calling, mainly from Iowa but also from Florida, Montana, California and Texas, Shriver and Quint said. They have been shipping orders.
'They are in such desperate need,” Shriver said. 'Hospitals are using our hand sanitizer formula to clean their rooms and surfaces. The biggest challenge now is everyone wants it.”
Cedar Ridge ramped up production to fulfill bulk orders at a rate of $19 a quart, $50 a gallon and $200 for five gallons. They are available for ordering at CRWine.com/shop.
While soap and water remains the best way to wash hands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol as an effective backup option for killing germs.
An initial Cedar Ridge recipe achieved 65 percent alcohol concentration in a blend with water, xanthan gum and lavender oil. They changed to meet the World Health Organization formula, which is 80 percent pure alcohol, distilled water, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol, Quint said.
Quint said a couple hundred distilleries around the country have responded to the hand sanitizer demand. The distillers must follow the World Health Organization formula to meet federal compliance for hand sanitizer, he said.
While sourcing bottles, pumps and other ingredients has been difficult, Quint said he expects to soon run out of the backbone of the effort - alcohol. It will be similar at other small-scale distillers around the nation.
'Slowly, one by one, they will run out of alcohol,” Quint said. 'That is inevitable.”
Alcohol is a byproduct of distilling gin and vodka, and while still in production, Cedar Ridge doesn't make the volume needed to support continued large orders for much longer, he said.
Large-scale distillers, which won't likely run out of alcohol, have existing contracts to suck up the supply, he said.
'I hope we can keep doing it because we are literally saving lives,” Shriver said. 'But, when we run out of alcohol, we're done.”
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