Carhartt to produce masks, gowns for COVID-19 responders

The Detroit News

Carhartt is stepping up to produce medical masks and gowns for front-line workers and first responders in the COVID-19 crisis, officials announced Tuesday.

The Dearborn-based workwear manufacturer said it plans to start producing 50,000 medical gowns on Monday. On April 20, the company will begin manufacturing 2.5 million masks, the company said in a statement.

“Serving and answering the call during times of need has always been an integral part of Carhartt’s history and it’s why consumers have trusted us to have their back for more than 130 years,” said Mark Valade, Carhartt CEO, in the release. “We are humbled and honored to help all the essential workers serving and protecting us right now.”

The announcement that Carhartt would start making masks was made Tuesday.

The work will be done at factories in Kentucky and Tennessee, according to the Carhartt website. Associates from Carhartt’s manufacturing facilities have volunteered to produce the items, the company said.

"The safety of all associates is Carhartt’s top priority, so the company is working closely with local health authorities and following recommended protocols to ensure a safe work environment for employees,"Valade said in the release. "This includes implementing social distancing protocols, limiting the number of employees, and increasing sanitation measures within facilities to ensure the health and well-being of team members."

In recent weeks, as part of measures to fight COVID-19, Carhartt temporarily closed all company-owned stores and implemented temporary rotating paid work schedules in its manufacturing and distribution facilities to encourage social distancing among associates.

News of the production plans comes amid a mask shortage so severe that the Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. hospitals, said Tuesday that if facilities can’t provide proper masks, health workers are allowed to bring their own from home, the Associated Press reported.

Hospitals across Michigan have sought donated masks, gowns and supplies as its workers treat residents with the virus and worry about becoming infected.

General Motors Co. said Tuesday it plans to deliver by April 8 its first 20,000 face masks to front-line workers fighting COVID-19.

Detroit Sewn in Pontiac and Eissmann Automotive in Port Huron also are sewing masks for medical workers, along with a Michigan company that makes Stormy Kromer wool hats.