After COVID-19 passes, we must keep making personal protective equipment in America
If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 crisis, it must be that America can no longer stop producing personal protective equipment for China or any other overseas manufacturer. The only way to ensure the safety of our first responders and frontline healthcare workers is to keep an adequate supply of PPE and have it ready to go.
This story is personal to me. Seven months ago, we switched part of our production from nonwovens for the automotive and bedding industries to a PSA line. Today we produce 4 million meters of PPE material every month. We have no plans to switch back at this time.
I started in this business straight out of college. My father was in the clothing industry and my grandfather before him. I remember the days when clothes racks were shoved through the streets of New York City and were busy cutting rooms. This is what our country was built on - hard work and work. We were a country that made things.
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Scott Tesser, President of Precision Textiles, and Peter Longo, Chairman / COO, pose in Totowa. Wednesday July 22, 2020
Over the course of my career, I have watched various manufacturing industries, particularly the clothing business, slowly move overseas never to return.
When the coronavirus began to hit our region in March, our frontline workers lacked the critical tools they needed most, the equipment to keep them safe, while risking their lives to save ours. The world was experiencing a pandemic and PPE manufacturers around the world had to deal with their own factory slowdowns - and sometimes shutdowns - to keep their employees safe. Competing buyers were desperately trying to replenish their stocks amid delays in shipping and transit due to the global health crisis.
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While the story of PPE shortage has been plastered around the world, many of us in the United States had the same thought: "How could the greatest country in the world fail to help our heroes?"
The safety officer Paul Hellriegel works on a laminating machine at Precision Textiles. Wednesday July 22, 2020
What followed was inspiring to say the least: rows of cars and trucks outside hospitals with people donating everything they had, an N95 mask from a construction project, boxes of gloves from tattoo parlors, even a Tyvek suit made from a paint job . People looked into their kitchens, toolboxes, and shuttered shops and drew everything to help our heroes. Companies that were able tried to quickly focus on producing the items they needed to keep our frontline workers safe. It was and is a brilliant moment for our generation. Together we could put millions of PPE in the hands of those who needed it most.
The current health crisis is not over yet. It is likely that the demand for PPE for first responders, hospitals and healthcare workers will remain high for some time.
What our nation learned in March, in the worst of circumstances, was that our domestic manufacturers can rise to the challenge. It is our responsibility to continue to do so. When the virus hit our area, many U.S. manufacturers turned to produce what was needed to fight the pandemic. Automakers worked to develop ventilators and respirators, the home furnishings industry developed hospital beds and masks, and those of us who could did so focused on minimizing the shortage of PPE that could be made in our factories.
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