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From Health Care Workers to Consumers, PPE Supply Looks to Meet Desperate Demand

Private industry, from textile firms to DTC suit makers, continue to step up in the newfound need for personal protective equipment, and especially face masks, for health care workers and the general public in the fight against coronavirus.

Canvas ETC, a textile supplier and e-commerce business, has donated thousands of face masks to area doctors, clinics and hospitals.

Nik Narwani, a company spokesperson, said Canvas sources fabrics domestically and from all over the world and the company, based in Auburn, Ga., was able to put those relationships to good use. Narwani noted that like in so many cities all over the U.S., nearby Atlanta and its suburban healthcare facilities are struggling to cope with an influx of COVID-19 patients.

Responding to the need for personal protective equipment (PPE), Canvas ETC distributed thousands of face masks to Emory Healthcare, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital and other local clinics.

Ware2Go

On a larger scale, Ware2Go, a UPS company that helps merchants simplify fast delivery to customers, is partnering with 1M Masks, a New York City grassroots initiative, to ship 1 million medical masks to healthcare workers, quickly and at no cost.

Ware2Go is donating its logistics technology, network of warehouses, and fulfillment and shipping services to allow medical providers to order free PPE from the 1M Masks website. Ware2Go connected the 1M Masks website to its platform so healthcare professionals can quickly and easily place orders and receive free PPE. Within a week, the Ware2Go-enabled e-commerce ordering process started shipping supplies to frontline healthcare workers and can ship PPE across the nation.

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“Ware2Go is happy to support healthcare professionals who are going above and beyond for our communities,” Ware2Go CEO Steve Denton said. “We’re trying to make it easy for them to get the equipment they need so they can focus their efforts on helping the patients who need their attention.”

Shafqat Islam created 1M Masks after receiving messages from parents at his daughter’s school about medical professionals at major New York City hospitals sending out alerts that they were days away from running out of PPE. Islam worked with a team of volunteers and partners at NewsCred to scale the initiative. They reached out to a handful of other New York City area startups and investors, and within 24 hours had secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

Ware2Go warehouse partner Transformco is also helping out by donating the labor costs at its Fairless Hills, Pa., warehouse to support the relief effort.

xSuit

On a consumer level, direct-to-consumer brand xSuit, known for its wearable technology suits, has launched the xMask collection, which offers a wide variety of masks for men and women.

Prices start at $40 for N95 masks and $17 for cloth fabric masks. The collection also offers KN95 filter replacements and shoppers receive a free mask with any suit order.

Vomaris

All this comes as textile and apparel companies in the U.S. and abroad are pivoting production to manufacture PPE. On a more medical level, Vomaris Innovations Inc., headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., said significant research findings confirmed viruses are killed upon exposure to the company’s bioelectric V.Dox Technology platform.

Vomaris has begun applying its technology to manufacture prototype face masks that can be worn alone or inside an existing face mask with the intention of killing viruses and reducing the risk of viral and bacterial spread. Currently, most face masks have no ability to kill viruses or bacteria.

Vomaris Innovations chairman Paul Foster said the company’s immediate goal is to receive approval through the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) program.

“With the strong evidence we have, we hope to receive an EUA and have our first products in the hands of clinicians very soon.” Foster said. “To our knowledge, V.Dox Technology is the only American-made antiviral technology that could be immediately available for use in this application.”

V.Dox Technology is a proprietary dot matrix pattern of embedded microcell batteries that wirelessly generate a low level of electricity in the presence of slight moisture. Vomaris currently commercializes a full line of wound dressing products under the names Procellera and JumpStart that have demonstrated a robust antimicrobial effect.

“We are proud to join the fight against this global pandemic with an important contribution to PPE,” Vomaris CEO Mike Nagel said. “We hope to make this technology available to as many people as possible in the short term and we’re in discussions now with companies having expertise in face mask development and manufacturing to fully integrate V.Dox Technology and help address the high-level need for effective face masks.”

Brother

Brother International Corporation has also lent its support to apparel companies manufacturing face masks to meet PPE demand, donating 100 industrial sewing machines to a group of American apparel brands and textile makers including Los Angeles Apparel, Beverly Knits, Inc. and SanMar.

This group will receive Brother industrial sewing machines without charge in order to increase the supply of face masks to medical workers and the general public. In addition, Brother International will be donating sewing machines to Brooks Brothers to support its PPE manufacturing efforts after connecting with the classic clothing maker on LinkedIn. Los Angeles Apparel alone confirmed Wednesday it is receiving “dozens” of machines.

Dickies

Dickies, in partnership with parent company VF Corp., is further supporting the fight against COVID-19 in the U.S. by manufacturing FDA-compliant isolation gowns for hospitals and healthcare workers. These high-demand PPE garments will be distributed to communities throughout the U.S.

With initial production beginning next week, VF and Dickies expect to produce and deliver 50,000 gowns in May, and intend to create production capacity to make up to 675,000 gowns by June and up to 3.4 million by September. The isolation gowns will be made with fabric sourced from industry partner Milliken & Company, in accordance with guidelines issued by the FDA.

The health and safety of workers involved in the production of these gowns will be a top priority and the company will ensure that necessary educational, screening and social distancing protocols will be strictly enforced en route to and within the facility.

The production of isolation gowns builds on several other initiatives that both Dickies and VF Corporation have each rolled out in response to COVID-19, including a $1.5 million donation to local communities from The VF Foundation, the private grant-making organization funded by VF Corporation, and a donation of Dickies-branded scrubs to impacted U.S. hospitals in partnership with Careismetic Brands.

Wolverine

Wolverine World Wide has donated more than 35,000 protective masks to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., for use by its healthcare workers on the front lines. In addition, the company has retrofitted its ReChaco factory in Rockford, Mich., to produce additional face masks and other critical protective equipment that is being donated to healthcare workers and first responders. An initial batch of more than 1,000 masks was delivered to Spectrum Health the week of April 6.

Operated by the company’s Chaco brand, the ReChaco factory is equipped with industrial sewing machines, ample backstock of materials and a production team with decades of professional sewing expertise. The brand plans to share its patterns, sourcing leads and learnings with other companies and individuals looking to contribute during the pandemic.

Merrell, the largest brand in Wolverine Worldwide’s portfolio, recently donated 1,200 pairs of shoes and boots to hospitals in Grand Rapids, including Spectrum Health and Mercy Health, as well as to the Grand Rapids Police and Fire Departments. This footwear came from Merrell’s work and tactical lines, specifically designed for first responders in these critical roles.

In addition, several of Wolverine Worldwide’s brands have partnered with the Two Ten Footwear Foundation to establish the “COVID-19 Share Your Shoes Campaign.” This initiative was led by Hush Puppies and quickly joined by Sperry, Keds, Hytest and Bates Footwear. Collectively, these brands have donated more than 13,000 pairs of shoes, which will be converted into cash and distributed to footwear industry families in need.

DuPont

On Wednesday, DuPont launched the #TyvekTogether program to augment its supply of Tyvek personal protective garments, with the goal of delivering 6 million additional non-surgical isolation gowns per month at full capacity “by enabling others to join us in protecting even more frontline responders,” the company said.

“There’s a critical need for protective apparel, and we believe that working with other companies to convert their existing cut-and-sew manufacturing capacity to protective garment fabrication is the fastest way to protect more people,” said John Richard, vice president and general manager of DuPont Safety Solutions. “Our dedicated employees around the world are working 24/7 to make more Tyvek material and patterns available to more organizations, working together to protect those who are protecting us.”

DuPont noted that it has invested in equipment and technology to ramp up its production of Tyvek and Tychem garments worldwide, increasing production of Tyvek garments by more than 9 million garments per month since January specifically for the response to COVID-19, “which is more than double the amount produced for any prior crisis.”

What’s more, the #TyvekTogether program will debut a new specialized Tyvek fabric that will enable an increase in the amount of garment production for the COVID-19 response to 15 million garments per month, Dupont added.