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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The Food and Drug Administration approved genomics company DxTerity's at-home COVID test this week making the Rancho Dominguez-based company one of the few that partner exclusively with corporations to provide saliva-based tests that can be taken on your couch.
As workers return to work, businesses have been scrambling to create safety protocols and make workers feel safe. Individual consumers have been able to purchase at-home tests online, but the company said it hasn't been as easy for businesses.
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Less than two weeks ahead of the election, Uber and Lyft are hitting new roadblocks after pouring money into a ballot measure intended to protect their business model.
On Thursday, a California appeals court put that strategy into question when it upheld an earlier ruling that the ride-hailing companies must classify their workers as employees instead of independent contractors. The court ruling won't take effect for 30 days, adding even more pressure on the ride-hailing companies' Proposition 22.
Later that day, a group of California Uber drivers filed a lawsuit against Uber alleging the company is engaged in illegal political coercion by constantly sending them pro-Prop 22 in-app alerts. The suit asks for $260 million in penalties.
Uber, Lyft, Postmates and other app-based delivery giants have pumped over $180 million into Prop 22 to keep their drivers from needing be reclassified as employees. Experts say if it fails, labor costs for the companies could jump 20 to 30%.
The barrage of cash has been spent on in-app messages, commercials and text messages about how drivers would lose flexibility and health care if the measure doesn't pass. The companies also say prices and delivery wait times for customers would skyrocket.
If it passes, gig workers wouldn't be entitled to protections including paid sick leave, overtime pay, and other benefits laid out in California's recently passed AB5 law.
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The high-flying, $1.75 billion mobile streaming service attracted investors from Hollywood studios to Goldman Sachs and is now grappling with how to return whatever capital it has left. Meanwhile, investors and those inside the company are asking how it all happened.
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