Good Deeds-Pitching in to help make masks
Businesses and individuals are redirecting their efforts to provide medical professionals and first responders with the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
As the number of coronavirus disease, 2019 (COVID-19) cases swelled into the hundreds of thousands, a shortage of face masks, face shields, ventilators, and respirators soon followed. So, health officials and government leaders issued an “all hands on deck” call for help.
Not since the 1940s have companies retooled their factories to manufacture products needed in a crisis. During World War II, for example, Ford Motor Company went from making cars to B-24 bombers. General Motors (GM) made tanks, torpedoes, aircraft engines, and other military equipment.
Now, nearly 80 years later, both companies are fighting a war of a different kind. In March, Ford announced that it would produce respirators with 3M and manufacture more than 100,000 plastic face shields a week with the United Auto Workers.
Ford is also producing ventilators with GE Healthcare. Similarly, General Motors is working with Ventec Life Systems to make ventilators.
Companies known for everything from underwear to sports apparel have abruptly shifted production to provide PPE for overwhelmed doctors, nurses, and first responders. Here are just a few of the many companies helping out:
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bauer Hockey manufactured hockey helmets, gloves, sticks, skates, and other related materials and apparel. Now, the New Hampshire-based company produces medical shields for health care workers.
Tom Bihn Inc., which makes travel bags, laptop bags, and backpacks, is making cotton surgical masks that can be washed, dried, and reused. The company is based in Seattle, Washington, where the first COVID-19 case in the United States was confirmed in January.
Eclipse International, based in North Brunswick, New Jersey, is taking two materials that it uses to make mattresses and producing three-layer face masks.
Fanatics, the Easton, Pennsylvania, manufacturer of official Major League Baseball (MLB) jerseys, joined with the MLB to produce one million masks and gowns for medical workers. The medical apparel, featuring Yankees and Phillies pinstripes, will be distributed across Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
The Swedish-based H&M Group announced that it would use its global supply chain to produce masks, gowns, and gloves for hospitals and health care workers.
Hanes has prioritized the production of face masks over underwear. Customers can still order underwear, socks, tops, and other apparel but it may take slightly longer than expected because of the urgent need for face masks.
Hedley & Bennett
Hedley & Bennett, which manufactures professional gear for the culinary world, has added the “Wake Up & Fight Mask” to its list of products. The company has shifted sewing lines at its factory in Vernon, California, from making professional-grade aprons to making face masks.
Los Angeles Apparel
Los Angeles Apparel is manufacturing reusable, washable, nonsurgical cotton French terry face masks and other PPE each day and distributed to hospitals and government agencies nationwide.
Nomad, a technology and smartphone accessories company, has reprioritized its efforts to produce three-layer, disposable face masks for medical professionals worldwide.
Importing PPE to the United States
Companies that normally would not get involved with PPE are now working with their international sources to import face masks to the United States. PPE is at a premium since medical equipment and supplies are needed in other countries battling the pandemic.
Iain Nash, an artist and tech worker based in Manhattan, is operating a Livestream series of fundraisers to buy and import Chinese KN95 respirators, which are nearly identical to N95 masks in the United States. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an N95 face mask covers the nose and mouth and protects from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face. The protective masks filter 95 percent of particles.
Melanie DiSalvo, the founder of Vice + Virtue, a company that advises fashion brands on socially responsible outsourcing and sustainable supply chain management, previously worked with different international suppliers. So, she started a GoFundMe campaign to import masks through those suppliers. DiSalvo said the first shipment of masks left China on April 3.
Face Masks and Care Packages
In South Freeport, Maine, Eric Baldwin noticed his Casco Totes business was slowing down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Baldwin makes one-of-a-kind totes from recycled sail from boats. He also sells, repairs, and washes boat sails. Baldwin and his staff decided to use their industrial sewing machines to turn sail cloths into face masks for caregivers and others who need protection against COVID-19.
Also deciding to make face masks were Julianna Dileo, 11, and her sister, 9-year-old sister, Ashley. The sisters were already taking sewing lessons when they heard about the need for more PPE for healthcare workers. Although the Staten Island, New York, sisters were not prepared to make a full face mask, the sisters watched a video on how to make face mask covers.
Julianna and Ashley took brightly colored material, cut it into 6×9-inch pieces, and sewed the pieces together. Julianna explained that health care workers need washable masks that could protect them from germs.
While the Dileo sisters were sewing,10-year-old Genelia Kang of Erie, Pennsylvania, was also learning how to sew. Genelia, who said she’s been “donating to the helpless” ever since she was little, decided to sew face masks and include them in a care package.
Besides the face masks, Genelia’s care package consisted of hand sanitizer and soap, donated from different companies, and an information sheet on how to prevent COVID-19. Genelia’s mother reached out to her sources to help donate the care packages, and 50 of them went to the homeless.