With Masks in Short Supply, Local Companies Start Sewing

Sonia Smith-Kang posted a call out on Facebook announcing her boutique children's clothing business in downtown Los Angeles was pivoting to designing masks to help protect first responders. The next morning she had nearly 400 orders and pleas for more.


The inspiration to alter her business came from conversations with her husband, a doctor who works in the intensive care unit at Dignity Health - Northridge Hospital Medical Center. "When he would come home, he said 'there's a shortage of masks," said Smith-Kang, a former nurse and founder of Mixed Up Clothing, which makes clothes that draw on cultural themes. "This really validated what we were hearing."

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday on Twitter that although the state has delivered masks, his office is still scrambling.

"California has distributed 24.5 million N95 masks. We have now ordered 100 million new masks. But it isn't enough. We're working around the clock to secure the personal protective equipment needed for those on the frontlines of #COVID19," he said.

With masks and other supplies becoming scarcer to health care professionals, Los Angeles officials earlier this week called on manufacturers to convert their operations to provide needed products from masks and gloves to swabs. Several have already stepped up including SpaceX. Santa Monica-based Figs, which produces scrubs, said Wednesday that it would be donating 30,000 sets to hospitals. And there's a slew more of sewers and other groups preparing masks.

Smith-Kang said she can only produce about 1,000 masks a day but she wanted to do what she could. The masks come in two different patterns, one with a beak for the nose and the other rectangular. All follow guidelines for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and have a pocket for filters. Individuals can buy one and the second will be donated.

The change in her business has been a relief. Smith-Kang has been able to bring back sewing contractors she released earlier this month. So far, she's had almost 800 orders and pleas from nurses to get masks.

"If I can do anything, I am going to do it," she said.

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