By Christian M. Wade Statehouse Reporter, Eagle Tribune
The company, 99 Degrees Custom, normally makes sportswear at its 150-person factory but amid the outbreak has pivoted to making isolation gowns compliant with Food and Drug Administration rules that are desperately needed by medical providers and first responders. The company has pledged to produce at least 1 million gowns. Gov. Charlie Baker said the gowns will be distributed to hospitals and health care centers where protective gear has been in short supply as the outbreak worsens. "It's an incredible gesture of commitment, generosity, community and creativity," Baker told reporters Monday. Brenna Schneider, founder and CEO of 99 Degrees Custom, said the the company worked with the state’s emergency response team to quickly shift from making apparel to hospital gowns. She said learning to make and distribute FDA-complaint clothing in a matter of weeks was like "drinking water from a firehose." "Normally, it takes six to 18 months to develop a new product," she said. The state chipped in some grant funding to help the company shift its focus. The order is one of dozens facilitated by a new online portal — www.mass.gov/covid-19-ppe-procurement-and-donation-program — designed to collect supplies. Massachusetts has faced a shortage of protective equipment such as respirators, ventilators and masks. The Baker administration said it has received only a fraction of its requests for protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile. Many companies have donated medical supplies and equipment to the state's hospitals and health care facilities, while others have shifted to producing the gear. New Balance's shoe factory in Lawrence, for example, is making protective masks for emergency and health care workers.