Retailers and manufacturers in several industries are adapting their production lines to make desperately needed medical equipment, as heathcare professionals across the U.S. report shortages of the coronavirus test kits and protective equipment needed to fuel large-scale efforts to test and treat Covid-19 patients.
Political leaders in the U.S. have been slow to launch widespread testing efforts to measure and slow the spread of the deadly virus, with some state governors declining to apply business shutdown or stay-at-home orders. Likewise, the Trump Administration is hesitating to apply the Defense Production Act, which would allow the federal government to compel private-sector companies to begin mass production of rare items such as ventilators, respirators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and nurses on the front lines of the fight.
Now a number of domestic companies have taken the matter into their own hands, launching production of masks, gowns, and hand sanitizer for medical professionals, using production lines that are usually reserved for building Fiat and Chrysler automobiles, Canada Goose winter parkas, Bauer ice hockey equipment, and KOVAL-brand whiskey and gin.
It is not yet clear whether those companies can match red-hot demand for the gear, but their efforts are being complemented by a trickle of imported supplies that have begun to flow in through maritime ports and airports, although still in limited volumes.
In Auburn Hills, Michigan, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) said Monday it will soon start manufacturing and donating more than 1 million protective face masks per month. Production capacity is being installed this week and the company will start manufacturing face masks in the coming weeks with initial distribution across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The face masks are to be donated by FCA to police, EMTs, and firefighters, as well as to workers in hospitals and health care clinics.
"Protecting our first responders and health care workers has never been more important. In addition to the support we are giving to increase the production of ventilators, we canvassed our contacts across the healthcare industry and it was very clear that there is an urgent and critical need for face masks,” FCA CEO Mike Manley said in a release. “We've marshalled the resources of the FCA Group to focus immediately on installing production capacity for making masks and supporting those most in need on the front line of this pandemic."
Just north of the border, trendy winter parka retailer Canada Goose said Wednesday that the company will leverage its manufacturing facilities to begin production of necessary medical gear for healthcare workers and patients across Canada in the fight against Covid-19. The company will begin making scrubs and patient gowns, which are in short supply across the country, and will begin distributing them to hospitals next week.
Canada Goose has committed to producing medical gear at two of its manufacturing facilities—starting in Toronto and Winnipeg—with the opportunity to extend production across additional facilities as needed. With production set to begin early next week, approximately 50 employees per facility will work to manufacture the gear and have an initial goal of producing 10,000 units.
Also on Wednesday, the Chicago-based craft spirits producer KOVAL Distillery said it has partnered with healthcare logistics provider MedSpeed to produce and distribute hand sanitizer. By converting its whiskey and gin stills to medical use, KOVAL said it brewed up 150 gallons of hand sanitizer on March 23, and expects to produce hundreds, or even thousands, of gallons over the next few weeks for donation to a designated list of healthcare facilities.
And in Exeter, New Hampshire, the iconic ice hockey equipment maker Bauer said is has started making medical face shields with the same materials it usually reserves for hockey pads and helmets. Production started today in Bauer facilities in Blainville, Quebec, and in Liverpool, New York, the company said in published reports. On its website, the company said: “Bauer is committed to protecting health care facilities, first responders and government agencies from Covid-19. By repurposing our facilities and supply-chain resources, we have shifted production to make single-use face shields.”
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We're indebted to all medical personnel and first responders who are risking their own safety to keep the rest of us safe. https://t.co/Eys0ml0Cts— BAUER Hockey (@BauerHockey) March 25, 2020