Brooks Brothers to start making masks for medical professionals
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Brooks Brothers will start manufacturing medical masks for health care professionals this week in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the retailer announced Tuesday.

The company, which is the oldest retailer in the U.S., said it will produce as many as 150,000 surgical masks a day at factories in New York, North Carolina and Massachusetts that typically produce ties, shirts and suits.

Factory workers will return to their jobs this week after a two-week precautionary self-quarantine.

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Brooks Brothers said in a statement that it's been in communication with federal and state officials, task forces, several major hospital systems and other organizations in the past two weeks. The company will partner with the Stop the Spread coalition of CEOs who are voluntarily supporting government action during the public health crisis.

The company said it worked with universities that specialize in textile technology to develop prototypes and requested the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) speed up the approval process.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We consider this a duty, and part of our DNA at Brooks Brothers,” CEO Claudio Del Vecchio said in a statement. “We are deeply grateful to the medical personnel at the frontlines who are fighting the pandemic, and we are honored to do our part and join our peers in retail to provide protective masks that our health care system critically needs."

Brooks Brothers said it is “closely following public health guidance” and will ensure federal sanitation and social distancing guidelines are followed at the factories.

The announcement came a day after Maryland-based athletic apparel maker Under Armour said it will manufacture 500,000 surgical masks for medical personnel in the state dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

Governors across the country have said their states and hospitals are in desperate need of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.

The U.S. has confirmed more than 164,700 coronavirus cases and 3,170 deaths. Almost 6,000 people have recovered from the disease in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University.