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Under Armour produces masks to battle COVID-19

Under Armour is producing face masks and specialized fanny packs for University of Maryland Medical system workers battling the spread of COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Under Armour)

Under Armour is producing face masks and specialized fanny packs for University of Maryland Medical system workers battling the spread of COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Under Armour/Shawn Hubbard)

Under Armour said Tuesday it’s manufacturing face masks, shields and specialized fanny packs to help protect health care workers at the University of Maryland Medical System responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement is the latest example of how manufacturers are retooling to provide critically needed products to respond to the coronavirus.

The Baltimore-based sports apparel brand said it plans to provide masks to regional health regional care organizations LifeBridge Health and is discussing providing supplies to Johns Hopkins Medicine and MedStar Health.

The company said it has the capacity to make up to 100,000 masks a week.

“When the call came in from our local medical providers for more masks, gowns and supply kits, we just went straight to work,” Randy Harward, senior vice president of Advanced Material and Manufacturing Innovation at Under Armour, said in a statement. “More than 50 Under Armour teammates from materials scientists to footwear and apparel designers from laboratories in Baltimore and Portland quickly came together in search of solutions.”

Under Armour employees working on the project have focused on designing protective masks for quick production at scale. Under Armour is using Lighthouse, the firm’s innovation hub in Baltimore, to produce masks.

A knife cutter at the lab is cutting nearly 100 pieces of fabric simultaneously to speed output. The single-piece masks don’t require sewing, and use “origami-style folds” to form the mask out of moisture resistant fabric.  Volunteer Under Armour employees and hospitals fold and distribute the masks.

Health care workers throughout the nation continue to deal with shortages of protective gear as the new coronavirus spreads in the U.S.

There are currently 1,413 confirmed cases of the disease in Maryland up from the three confirmed cases at the start of March. At least 18 residents have been killed by the illness so far.

Maryland’s elected officials have tried to stop the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging residents to practice social distancing and restrict travel.  On Monday Gov. Larry Hogan issued a stay-at home order that stating that no resident should leave their home after 8 p.m. unless it’s essential for work, or for buying necessities, such as food and medicine.

In order to reduce the strain on the state’s health care system the state and national guard are transforming the Baltimore Convention Center into a field-hospital to treat people sickened by the virus.

“We are incredibly grateful for Under Armour’s investment in our health care workers, patients, and each Marylander working hard to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Their willingness and ability to immediately pivot their manufacturing focus to help meet our personal protective equipment  needs will save lives” Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of UMMS, said in a statement.

Across the country, Ford is repurposing an auto parts factory west of Detroit to building simple ventilators to treat coronavirus patients. When fully operational, the plant is expected to produce up to 30,000 ventilators a month.

In Canada, hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer has shifted from making visors for hockey helmets to producing medical visors.

Locally, Marlin Steel Wire Products in Baltimore is producing a specialized wire basket to hold test tubes needed for COVID-19  researchers. And Sagamore Spirits is converting some of its operations that normally make rye whiskey to produce tens of thousands of liters of hand sanitizers.

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