COVID-19 Coronavirus: Masks and Manufacturing

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by | May 7, 2020

Polaris MEP and the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association recently collaborated with Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor on a conference call specifically for manufacturing businesses. The timing was especially important: Governor Gina Raimondo had just issued an Executive Order that, beginning on April 18th, all manufacturing employees are required to wear cloth face coverings.

As critical businesses, RI’s manufacturers have been very proactive in their COVID-19 coronavirus response. From

  • pivoting to face shield production to
  • staggering shifts to
  • installing sanitizer stations to
  • innovative phone apps that screen employees daily …

we’re so proud of the adaptations manufacturers have put into place to protect their workers!

Are you struggling to find face coverings that can work on a manufacturing floor? Looking for a solution that is re-usable, or seeking a bulk option? Here are two resources to consider

1. LOCAL Resource for Face Coverings / Non-Medical Masks

Polaris MEP recently collaborated with DESIGNxRI, the Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network (RITIN), and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation on an online mask “marketplace.”

MasksRI connects Rhode Island businesses directly with local suppliers of non-medical face coverings.

Suppliers include designers, craftspeople and manufacturers who have pivoted to mask-making as part of the effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

For example, Pawtucket-based manufacturer Propel LLC specializes in smart textile technology. Propel President Clare King and her team were working on a new additive manufacturing process that allows manufacturers to 3D print a garment directly from yarn. However, when the CDC recommended wearing face coverings, Propel LLC moved quickly to supply cut and sewn masks. They use textiles and a nose stay made in Rhode Island. Propel now producing roughly 1000 masks a day.

Another organization pivoting to masks was Laura Burkett Designs. Before COVID-19, the contemporary craft shop focused on custom fabric works. Now, they’re supplying masks through MasksRI.

Burkett is typical of many of the local suppliers, because they’ve built in a further benefit to the community. For every six masks sold, one mask is donated to a frontline healthcare worker.

2. RIMA Buying Cooperative

The Rhode Island Manufacturers Association (RIMA) has established a website to assist manufacturers and associate businesses with the opportunity to purchase four coronavirus-related items at this time: disposable face masks, nitrite gloves, non-contact thermometers and sanitizer.

RIMA said they “are trying to use this cooperative purchasing as a way to allow small businesses obtain the price structure that large companies can do on their own.”

You’ll find the new co-op tool at

Truly, the industry is #StrongerTogether.

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