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Helping hands in a time of need

Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery brews up hand sanitizer in response to COVID-19 crisis
Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery has produced a hand sanitizer to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and distributed it at the distillery near Swisher, and at NewBo in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, March 18.

SWISHER– The COVID-19 pandemic has led to store shelves being emptied as worried shoppers grab supplies they think they need in case of being quarantined or ordered to remain at home.
Among the items being hoarded is hand sanitizer.
While not a replacement for soap and water, it is a product recommended to help minimize the spread of illnesses, including COVID-19, and recently people most at-risk have had great difficulty in finding hand sanitizer to purchase.
Dr. Ryan Sundermann, an emergency department physician in Cedar Rapids, discovered the impact of the shortage first-hand recently when he went out in search of hand sanitizer for his family.
“I was walking through Hy-Vee looking for hand sanitizer, and they didn’t have any, and they said they had a kit where you could make some with isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera, but when the manager took me over there, he realized he was out of isopropyl two hours after he put it out.”
The next morning, Dr. Sundermann met with his fellow business partners at SOKO Outfitters (a Cedar Rapids-based outdoor gear retailer) with an idea to make their own hand sanitizer. “I asked where we could get some grain alcohol, and I thought maybe Cedar Ridge would have some. Steve Shriver (co-owner with Sundermann and two others) knows Jeff Quint (owner of Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery) and called him up, and he was in immediately. He (Quint) volunteered his time, his product, and his space as well. Steve got his production manager out there, they worked on the formula, and bottled it on Tuesday (March 17).
Shriver, who also co-owns Eco Lips (a Marion-based lip care producer) with his wife, said they worked with Quint to produce 1,000 six-ounce bottles, which were distributed on Wednesday, March 18, at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, and at Cedar Ridge Distillery near Swisher. A supply was also provided to the True Value Hardware Store on Mount Vernon Road due to the number of elderly customers there. Another 250 bottles were produced on Thursday, March 19, and handed out at Cedar Ridge.
Jamie Siefken, the general manager and executive vice-president for Cedar Ridge, said the partnership is all about helping out in a time of need.
“We decided with the shortage of hand sanitizer going on in our country right now, we would try to help out the local community by producing hand sanitizer with Steve Shriver and his team at Eco Lips. They have the formulas, and we have the crucial ingredient, which is alcohol.”
Cedar Ridge is using a still normally dedicated to making alcohol for Vodka, gin and other clear spirits. The hand sanitizer is 65 percent alcohol, higher than the typical 40 percent of a whiskey. “Alcohol straight off the still comes off at a higher percentage based on the product you’re making, so a lot of our products are made at this proof, they’re just usually cut down with water to get to the appropriate proof to put into a barrel or bottle,” Siefken said.
Other distilleries around the country have also been converting at least part of their production to hand sanitizers. “There’s lots of places where they’re taking the alcohol they had in inventory, or are producing it, and worked with local partnerships to create hand sanitizer,” Siefken noted. “So that’s where we initially got the idea, but the reason is to do what’s right for the community.”
Initially small bottles were given out for free (although many people made a freewill cash donation), and Cedar Ridge intends to continue providing those for the duration of the crisis. In addition, Siefken said, they’re ramping up production in order to produce larger quantities for hospitals, pharmacies and other businesses in an effort to help protect their staffs as well. One-gallon jugs and five-gallon buckets were set to be available for purchase starting Wednesday, March 25.
“We have no end time as to when we’re going to stop. As long as there is a need, as long as people are not able to get it from their typical sources, we will continue to produce it for those who need it,” Siefken said.
For the most up-to-date information on sites to obtain the personal-sized containers go to https://www.facebook.com/cedarridgeiowa/ and to learn more about the larger containers, including how to purchase them, go to https://crwine.com.
Hand sanitizer is not a replacement for good basic hygiene, but merely a substitute for when soap and water are not present. Dr. Sundermann also offered the following advice regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We want the people who are not ill to stay home, or call their healthcare provider and talk to them about what they should do. If you just think you could have it but are asymptomatic (not showing signs/symptoms), or with minimal symptoms, it’s better you shelter in place (stay home) and talk with your provider,” he said. “We don’t want to overwhelm the system, so if you can, stay in place. If you need some help, talk to your primary healthcare provider, and if you need us at the emergency department certainly come on down.”