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Up to 500 Brooks Brothers employees will go back to work this week as the menswear retailer pivots production to make medical masks and gowns for health care workers on the front lines battling the coronavirus.
The menswear retailer announced Monday it will convert its factories in New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina from manufacturing ties, shirts and suits to medical masks and gowns to combat the ongoing shortage of personal protective equipment.
The New York City-based clothing company will use its facilities to make up to 150,000 masks per day to help healthcare workers at hospitals and other facilities in need battling the spread of the coronavirus.
Factory workers will return to work this week following a two-week precautionary self-quarantine, the company said. Brooks Brothers said it will also practice social distancing on-site at all facilities to protect staff.
"These are challenging times that are impacting us all. We are deeply grateful to the medical personnel at the frontlines who are fighting the pandemic, and we are honored to do our part and join our peers in retail to provide protective masks that our health care system critically needs," Brooks Brothers CEO Claudio Del Vecchio said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance, saying hospitals that run low on surgical masks may consider ways to reuse them or to use them over the course of an entire shift. And if hospitals run out, the CDC said, scarfs or bandanas could be used "as a last resort," however, some health officials warned cloth masks might not work.
Brooks Brothers is the latest retailer to pivot manufacturing efforts to supplies for healthcare workers. Neiman Marcus Group, JOANN Stores, Canada Goose, Nike and Hanes have also started producing non-surgical materials such as masks, gowns and scrubs.