It seems to be all hands on deck right now to help health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the Washington Distillers Guild — a nonprofit organization that represents distilleries in the state — which is coordinating an effort to make hand sanitizers for nurses, doctors, first responders, or anyone else within the health care supply chain that needs them.
Resources in Washington state’s health care industry continue to be stretched thin due to the spread of COVID-19, and Mhairi Voelsgen, founder of Brovo Spirits and president of the guild, tells Eater Seattle that many facilities reached out to distilleries in the state for help. Both the Trade and Tariff Bureau (which is part of the federal department’s Alcohol Tobacco Firearms division) and the FDA gave approval for the effort. The guild is complying with the World Health Organization guidelines for sanitizer formula, which requires at least 80 percent alcohol by volume for use by consumers and health care personnel.
Many distilleries across the country have made hand sanitizer in recent weeks for consumer use, from Portland to Minnesota to New York. But providing sanitizers specifically for the health care industry directly from commercial distilleries seems to be a relatively new development, at least locally, and requires extensive coordination to produce the bulk that may be needed.
Several small, family-owned distilleries in Washington are now converting their operations to meet the demand. Part of the effort includes Seattle distilleries, such as Batch 206 and Letterpress, who have committed to making hundreds of gallons and shipping them out by Friday in both bottles and buckets. “While it appears simple to do, it really isn’t that easy to produce [sanitizer] in measurable quantities sorely needed,” says Batch 206 owner Jeff Steichen. “We will go 24/7 if necessary.”
Meanwhile, Wildwood Spirits Co. in Bothell has partnered with King County Metro and the Seattle Police Department to make hand sanitizers for workers who may not have regular access to hand washing facilities while on duty. The first batch was delivered last Friday for King County Metro, while bottles for the Seattle Police Department will follow shortly and continue indefinitely.