At his factory just off the Delaware River, in the far southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, Joe Boyce clocked in on March 23 for the longest shift of his life. In his office, an air mattress replaced his desk chair. He brought a toothbrush and shaving kit, moving into the Braskem petrochemical plant in Marcus Hook, Pa., as if it were a makeshift college dormitory. The casual office kitchen became a mess hall for him and his 42 co-workers turned roommates. The factory’s emergency operations center became their new lounge room.
For 28 days, they did not leave — sleeping and working all in one place. In what they called a “live-in” at the factory, the undertaking was just one example of the endless ways that Americans in every industry have uniquely contributed to fighting coronavirus. The 43 men went home Sunday after each working 12-hour shifts all day and night for a month straight, producing tens of millions of pounds of the raw materials that will end up in face masks and surgical gowns worn on the front lines of the pandemic.