EDDYVILLE — Some of the smallest towns of rural Iowa are playing key roles in the fight of the global pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds visited a chemical company and a wheelchair maker Friday in rural Iowa.

At Wacker Chemical in Eddyville, Reynolds held a bottle of cyclodextrin which had been manufactured by the plant. The substance is notable because it combines with remdesivir to make it soluble and more effective.

Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug made by Gilead Sciences and has had favorable studies in treading the COVID-19 disease, which is caused by the new coronavirus.

The three cyclodextrins that Wacker produces, including the one combined with remdesivir, are made from starch, which the company receives from the nearby Cargill plant in Eddyville. They are the only company in the world that produces all three cyclodextrins on a commercial scale.

The company also makes cyclodextrins used in anti-viral masks produced by the company HeiQ. The HeiQ Viroblock mask is still waiting for FDA approval, but the company says studies have shown the mask to be effective from the coronavirus. The mask has already rolled out in Germany and Australia.

Thirty miles away in Bloomfield, Reynolds toured Ability Products Inc., a producer of German-engineered wheelchair parts and accessories. But, the company shifted focus a bit to help build clip-on face masks as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

Mark Chelgren, president of the company, told Reynolds Friday that it helped allow his group of companies to keep from laying employees off during COVID, as they could be reassigned to help with that project. The masks initially were sent around the state of Iowa, but have been around the region and even overseas to countries like Canada and Germany.

The company worked in a matter of eight days begin producing 14,000 masks a day into the supply chain, assisting the State of Iowa’s effort to supply personal protective equipment.

Chelgren said the company is currently producing the mask frames in a variety of colors so wearers can coordinate with the favorite team, schools, etc.

The clear face shield is also being looked at from area schools, Chelgren said, as they determine how to best get kids back into school this fall.

“For our businesses across the state to really retrofit [to meet needs for PPE],” Reynolds said. “We know that COVID is still in our communities. ... For Iowans that want to continue to open up and do it in a responsible manner, to be able to provide face shields and masks and the proper equipment that gives them the comfort level they need to that, is really important.”

Reynolds said she continues to track COVID, pointing out that recently there was a small uptick in case numbers of the disease.

“[I’m] so appreciative of Iowans,” Reynolds said. “They’ve been diligent and really being mindful and doing what they need to do.”

Reynolds started the morning with a meeting at Lee Container in Centerville. Most of her visit was a private meeting with company leaders, as well as Iowa Rep. Holly Brink and Iowa Sen. Ken Rozenboom. But, she did briefly tour the manufacturer of plastic containers.

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

Kyle Ocker is the group editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the first vice president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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