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Retailers across the country are ramping up manufacturing efforts to produce PPE for healthcare workers amid medical supply shortages. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)
On Wednesday, Neiman Marcus Group's alterations facilities began production with JOANN to start making personal protective equipment products. Employees will abide by the recommended social distancing guidelines while making the materials, the luxury retailer said.
"Neiman Marcus Group and JOANN will produce these materials as long as there is a need and are poised to create many thousands of essential items," Neiman Marcus Group said in a statement, explaining that the partnership was started to "help fill part of the immediate need of materials for medical personnel."
With a national shortage of N95 masks, which filter at least 95 percent of airborne particles, and shrinking supplies of loose-fitting surgical masks, some hospitals and medical facilities are forced to disinfect one-time use masks using UV-light to conserve supplies. Others are relying on do-it-yourself versions.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week 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.
The materials used by the company are not medical grade, according to Neiman Marcus. The first shipment of materials is expected to be sent to healthcare providers later this week.
A number of other retailers are pivoting production capabilities to help manufacture masks. High-end winter coat maker Canada Goose announced on Wednesday it would start production in Toronto and Winnipeg on medical gear including scrubs and patient gowns, which are in short supply. They’ll be distributed to hospitals next week, the company said. Hanes, the clothing company, is also producing masks, however, the company is unable to meet N95 qualifications. And last week, JOANN fabrics launched a program to give out free cloth and elastic so customers who are willing to make facemasks at home can donate them to local medical facilities.
Millions of Americans sheltering in place are doing their part to sew and create masks out of recycled materials and fabric. However, they may be able to contain the spread of germs, but they aren’t made to eliminate the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC says that the best way to prevent getting sick is to avoid exposure to the virus – that means refraining from person-to-person contact, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth and covering sneezes and coughs with a tissue or the inside of the elbow. Frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds is also urged.