State officials urge manufacturers to meet ‘pressing need’ for protective gear

Amid the public health crisis of the coronavirus, Missouri officials are trying to facilitate a connection between the state’s manufacturers and medical facilities to help fill the unmet demand for personal protective equipment.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development, or DED, hosted a virtual meeting with business owners on April 3, announcing that it will begin presenting hospitals with a list of gowns, masks, gloves and other equipment available for purchase each week produced by manufacturers in the state. To have their items marketed to medical facilities, manufacturers must register with the state and provide information related to price, quantity and date of delivery.

“We need to make sure the supply of this equipment is matched to the demand for it across the state,” said Rob Dixon, director of the Department of Economic Development. “The need is great. That is really why we are trying to facilitate this.”

According to state health officials, there were more than 3,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 77 deaths from the disease as of Thursday afternoon. To provide proper care, medical providers require the equipment to protect themselves from infected patients. And as the number of cases rises, so does the demand for those items.

To increase the available supply, the DED is hoping to entice manufacturers to switch their production from the traditional items they manufacture.

Hoping to spur action, state officials provided an overview of the demand for the following 30 days: 2 million face shields, 2 million N95 masks, 6 million surgical gowns, 7 million surgical masks and 14 million pairs of gloves.

“Some of this will come from their traditional suppliers,” said Michelle Hataway, central region manager for the DED. “However, as you know, these hospitals are competing with other countries and states for these supplies.”

That is the reason they are requesting the assistance of the business community. Some participants in the DED webinar said they are willing to help contribute given the need.

“I just wanted to let people know that we are a textile plant in New Haven, Missouri, we actually have material that meets … specifications that the (Food and Drug Administration) recognizes for gowns,” said Alan Prelutsky, vice president of Merlen Textiles. “When people are looking for textile materials to make gowns, we have about 150,000 linear yards in stock in assorted colors and can ship it in a day.”

Other businesses on the call expressed concerns about continuing demand for the products.

The DED did what it could to assure manufacturers there will be a continued need for the items.

“There is obviously a very strong interest, a very strong and pressing need, to have Missouri’s private sector really generate the additional medical supply chain for personal protective equipment,” Dixon said. “We need it in our hospitals. We need it all across the state.”

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