Hanes clothing company is retrofitting factories to make masks to combat the aggressive spread of novel coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced at a press conference Saturday. The company later confirmed it was pairing with the government to make masks for health care workers on the front line of fighting the disease.
"By way of example, Hanes ... [is] retrofitting manufacturing capabilities in large sections of the plants to produce masks and they're in the process right now," Trump said at Saturday’s coronavirus task force briefing.
Health care providers across the country are fearing shortages of face masks and other critical equipment amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Hanes expects to ramp up to production of 1.5 million masks weekly, and the consortium of companies it has joined, led by Parkdale Mills America, is expected to ramp up to production of 5 million to 6 million masks weekly using HanesBrands’ design and patterns, the company said in a statement.
"The company’s supply chain and product development experts created technical product specifications, including product chemistry, and samples of cotton masks in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that were approved by the FDA." Hanes said.
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Equipment to keep nurses and doctors healthy while treating patients is already in short supply in some parts of the country.
"It's a serious issue," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said at the briefing. "I get the calls every night the way you get emails. ... You're not making things up. I know that because I'm experiencing myself."
Fauci said he hopes it will be "days" before doctors get supplies they need.
Apple will also be donating masks, Vice President Mike Pence said.
"The president and I literally heard directly from Apple that they are donating 2 million industrial masks for this effort around the country and working with our administration to distribute those," he said.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has placed an order for 600 million N95 respirator masks over the next 18 months to be made available to health care providers across the country. The masks will come at a price tag of $500 million, according to information provided by HHS.
"Within the national center we have a supply chain task force and in a basic sense we are trying to identify the universe of what's out there, what we hold at the federal level and hold at private sector and mash it up with demand and [we're] asking people to be creative," Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor said.
He added, "There's a range of requests across the country and we are trying to match those, again, supply and demand, every day."
Earlier this month, HHS said it had requested proposals to provide 500 million masks to doctors and nurses across the country. Officials have estimated the demand could creep up to a billion in the next six months.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Hanes would be manufacturing N95 masks. The company is instead making surgical-type masks.