Australian News

Major League Baseball uniforms used to make medical masks, gowns in coronavirus fight


March 27, 2020 14:49:42

Major League Baseball (MLB) jerseys that could have been worn this season by the sport’s biggest fans in the United States and around the world are now a protective mask or gown in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • A US company that produces MLB uniforms is now using the same fabric to make medical masks and gowns
  • The company is looking to make at least a million masks over several months
  • US states are in great need of masks and gowns to be used by medical professionals during the coronavirus crisis

Fanatics, the company that manufactures uniforms for the MLB in the US, has suspended production on jerseys, with the start of the baseball season delayed amid the health crisis.

Instead, it is using the polyester mesh fabric to make masks and gowns for hospitals in Pennsylvania and nearby states.

Michael Rubin, the founder and executive chairman of Fanatics, was watching TV when he was struck by the idea to turn a 360,000-square foot facility in Easton, Pennsylvania, into a factory for the COVID-19 virus fight.

While Rubin considered how he could make it happen, St Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, reached out to Fanatics late last week about the possibility of the company manufacturing masks.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney-General Josh Shapiro each contacted Rubin and told him the state was in “dire need” of more masks and gowns.

Fanatics developed a prototype that was approved by Pennsylvania’s emergency agency and earlier this week the company halted production of all baseball jerseys.

Rubin, a limited ownership partner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, said he had the blessing of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to stop producing jerseys.

“We’ve got a million yards of fabric that we make these baseball uniforms from,” Rubin said.

“[I asked] ‘What would you think if we take that fabric and make masks and gowns?’.

“He (Manfred) immediately said, ‘Great. I want to do it immediately. The most important thing is we’ve got to help the heroes on the frontline and baseball can help play a role in it’.”

Fanatics started fashioning masks and gowns earlier this week and Rubin hoped to produce nearly 15,000 a day.

Rubin said masks made up 95 per cent of demand. The production plant had been shut down as a non-essential business but about 100 workers have returned to work for Fanatics.

The company is making level one masks, used for low-risk, non-surgical procedures that are for single-use only.

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It will cost Fanatics almost $US3 million ($4.9 million) to make the masks and gowns, and the company will produce at least a million over the course of several months.

When it comes to Fanatics assisting in the coronavirus fight, Rubin said: “We’re less worried about manufacturing jerseys and more worried about just saving lives.”

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