American fashion and textile companies are starting to collectively produce medical grade face masks, as the country’s doctors and hospitals deal with a critical shortage amid a growing number of patients ill with COVID-19, or coronavirus.
As of now, nine companies have formed a “coalition” of sorts to get production going, according to the National Council of Textile Organizations. The companies are American Giant, Fruit of the Loom, Hanesbrands, Parkdale Inc., Los Angeles Apparel, AST Sportswear, American Knits, Beverly Knits and Riegel Linen.
The NCTO said Parkdale, the largest yarn spinner in the U.S. based in North Carolina, led the effort after the White House made clear there was an urgent need for medical supplies like face masks. The organization said the nine companies joined together “virtually overnight” to “build a supply chain” and “fast-track the manufacturing of medical face masks to help hospitals, health care workers and citizens battling the spread of the COVID-19 disease.”
Peter Navarro, an assistant to President Donald Trump and current director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, has been working with the coalition and some of the first face masks have already been approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the NCTO.
Production of the medical masks should start this coming Monday and first deliveries are expected by mid-week.
“They are dedicating their assets, resources and manufacturing capacities to create a high output of facemasks,” the NCTO said of the companies. “Once fully ramped up in four or five weeks, the companies expect to produce up to 10 million face masks per week in the U.S. and in Central America.”
If other companies are interested in contributing to the effort to create facemasks, the NCTO is accepting inquiries.
On Friday, fashion designer Chritsian Siriano said he and his relatively small team of sewers were starting to create masks for non-medical hospital workers who did not require medical-grade masks, like social workers and receptionists. His team is using washable fabric in hopes of workers getting more than one wear and output is expected to be around 1,000 masks in the next couple of days. Siriano is also hoping to start producing medical gowns, but as of Friday was waiting to hear what the medical requirements are.
“Once we get the actual information then we are happy to help as much as we can,” Siriano said.
Similarly, fellow designer Brandon Maxwell said Friday he and his team are currently researching fabrics and requirements for medical-grade gowns and masks and expect to get to some level of production in the near-term.
The number of coronavirus cases has started to climb as testing is just becoming more widely available. As of Saturday, there were more than 25,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 300 deaths.
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