HOLLAND — A West Michigan electronics and furniture manufacturer has retooled operations to produce contact-tracing badges that help employers maintain social distancing among workers during the coronavirus pandemic fallout.
Fleetwood Group Inc.’s electronics division is filling orders for “Instant-Trace” badges that company officials say would be particularly beneficial at manufacturing facilities, but also for general contractors and fulfillment companies.
“The response has been completely overwhelming,” Fleetwood President and CEO Jason Grant said of interest among possible customers. Since announcing the product over the weekend, Grant has seen multiple requests for 1,000-plus unit orders.
Contact tracing is a COVID-19 prevention tool that helps track people who may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services launched an effort with 2,000 volunteers to expand contact tracing capacity. However, the state will seek a new software vendor to oversee the process after reports that the Whitmer administration hired a firm connected with Democratic political consultants in Grand Rapids.
“Contact tracing is an essential public health tool and will help determine and limit the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” Michigan chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in a statement. “This effort is also giving Michiganders an important way to contribute to crisis response and we appreciate their willingness to step up for their communities, pitching in selflessly for work that will help us all.”
The Fleetwood badges, which cost $99 each, vibrate and blink when social distances have been breached. Contact-tracing information is stored for up to 21 days if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, helping employers determine who may have been in contact. The data can be accessed by company leaders via the internet.
Users wear the badges near the chest or the hip. At the end of a shift, employees scan a QR code on the badge at a kiosk that stores the data.
Fleetwood will be using contact tracing at its Holland facility, along with other coronavirus-related safeguards like temperature monitoring, hygiene protocols and sanitation.
“I don’t see any of those things changing for us in the foreseeable future,” Grant said.
Grant says the badges will likely be part of a broader shift within workplaces post-COVID-19. He and others expect preventative measures to be in place at workplaces for the next 12 to 18 months.
“Until there’s something you can actually do to help completely stop the virus,” Grant said, “there’s going to be a lot of precautions needed.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated from its original form.