Sports uniform manufacturing company Fanatics has converted their Pennsylvania factory to instead produce hospital gowns and masks for health care workers in desperate need of supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fanatics Executive Chairman Michael Rubin announced Thursday that the company was teaming up with Major League Baseball (MLB) to produce the medical supplies, which they plan to immediately distribute free of charge to health care workers in Pennsylvania.
“The COVID-19 crisis has compelled our country to be more collaborative, innovative and strategic than ever before,” said Rubin in a statement obtained by Newsweek. “As the demand for masks and gowns have surged, we’re fortunate to have teamed up with Major League Baseball to find a unique way to support our frontline workers in this fight to stem the virus, who are in dire need of essential resources.”
Vital medical supplies including masks, gowns, gloves and disinfectants have been in very short supply due to the pandemic. Individuals hoarding the supplies, along with people hoping to profit off the crisis by price gouging, have helped force some health care workers to tend to patients without the protective equipment.
Rubin said that around 100 workers had already begun producing the first batch of supplies, with plans to expand the reach of the project beyond Pennsylvania.
“We have already begun production of up to one million masks and gowns from the fabric used to make the official MLB jerseys and then donating to hospitals and emergency management personnel throughout Pennsylvania with the goal of expanding to New York and New Jersey,” Rubin said.
The company had been producing official uniforms for MLB players before shifting focus during the crisis. MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. agreed to halt production of the uniforms and the league offered to partner with Fanatics to cover the cost of production.
“We hope this effort can play a part in coming together as a community to help us through this challenging situation,” Manfred said.
Rubin took to Twitter Thursday afternoon to break the news, saying he dreamed about manufacturing the masks and gowns last week before public officials in Pennsylvania approached him with the same idea.
“Woke up in the middle of the night last week with idea of converting our @Fanatics factory in PA that makes official @MLB jerseys into a facility that makes much needed masks and gowns and then donating them to help fight this horrendous virus,” tweeted Rubin.
The picture included in the tweet shows a pinstriped mask and gown, said to be made from the same material the company was using to make New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies jerseys, suggesting that the masks may not conform to the specifications of the N95 respirator masks favored by public health experts. However, they are likely to provide some protection in the absence of anything else.