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Veteran-owned Nine Line Apparel shifts production to address coronavirus mask shortage

The company is stepping up to meet the increasing demand.
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The coronavirus pandemic has reached an alarming stage in the US right now. On top of that, surgical masks and N-95 masks are also at an all-time shortage, making it difficult for healthcare workers and the public to get their hands on new masks.

What’s more, to combat the shortage of masks, doctors are having to try and use ultraviolet rays to disinfect used masks and reuse them.

At such a juncture, several individuals and organizations are making an effort to improve the dire situation of masks right now.

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Tyler Merritt, the CEO of indie ecommerce line Nine Line Apparel, is one such benevolent individual who pledged to halt his apparel production to focus on producing masks.

He is now reaching out to the public as he needs support for the production of masks.

“I’m an engineer, I’m also a former Army officer, I’m also a member of the special operations community, I’m also the son of a person who will die if he contradicts this, I’m also the son of a nurse, I’m also the father of children who could potentially die. So this is not about money, this about coming together, cutting through the red tape, this is also about identifying those horrible, massive conglomerates that are hoarding materials,” said Merritt.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation, surgical masks as well as N-95 masks must be used once only.

But as Merritt says, the unnecessary hoarding of all essentials, including masks, has now led to a heavy shortage, forcing doctors to decontaminate the masks with ultraviolet rays. He aims to make a difference and improve the availability of masks.

In a Skype conversation, Merritt said that he required cooperation from the US government when it comes to “testing procedures [and] FDA guidelines”. He then went on to highlight the skyrocketed prices of masks because of the ongoing outbreak. For instance, masks that once cost 70 cents now cost $7.

“The commodity, the specific material that we used for that mask, it used to cost $6,000 a ton, it’s now being treated as a commodity, almost $600,000 a ton. To battle the current situation of jacked up prices, the two machines capable of producing the said materials in the US need to be running full speed.

“They are in New Hampshire and they are at the University of North Carolina. All resources need to be directed towards that machine to make as much of that melt-blown material as possible and then disseminating it to as many manufacturing facilities around the country as possible.”

He also said that he was selling away the masks at the exact price he is making them for, to not look for profit, but to just help alleviate the critical shortage.

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