From Radiation-Proof Boxers to Silver-Lined Face Masks, an L.A. Company Pivots for the Pandemic
Tami Abdollah is dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.
Lambs co-founder and CEO Arthur Menard de Calenge got an urgent message several weeks ago. A customer who also happens to be a doctor said the hospital he works at was completely out of N95 masks and had run out of surgical masks, too. Doctors were coming to work wearing whatever they could find to cover their faces — ski masks, a scarf, bandana, whatever.
The doctor had started creating homemade masks for himself with his sister, who would sew them, using a layer of Lambs' silver-lined "WaveStopper" fabric, along with a layer of sheets that have very dense knits.
Since silver has been shown in studies to have some antiviral properties, "this was the best homemade solution he could create," Menard de Calenge said, "and so he actually reached out to see if we could help in providing more fabric to create those homemade masks for other doctors and the hospital."
That's how a Santa Monica-based company that first started selling silver-lined boxer briefs to shield men's testicles from purported cell phone and Wi-Fi radiation repurposed its L.A. factory to produce non-medical grade masks to battle COVID-19. The company is one of a slew of businesses in Los Angeles and beyond that have repurposed what they are doing and pivoted to address the pandemic.
From Radiation-Proof Jocks to Silver-Lined Face Masks, an L.A. Company Pivots for the Pandemic assets.rebelmouse.io
Lambs — which now also sells silver-lined beanies, T-shirts and women's underwear — is offering reusable and washable face masks made to specs provided by Kaiser Permanente. It's also adding a lining of its "WaveStopper" fabric to the masks. The fabric contains 50% of "XSoft" silver fibers, and the masks have an inner pocket for those who want to add their own disposable filter.
Lambs uses silver for its "antiviral properties." The company cites medical studies that say the metal can help prevent the spread of viruses, though there hasn't been any testing that could prove its effectiveness in face coverings. The masks have not been FDA approved and aren't a substitute for an N95 surgical or procedural mask, Lambs said.
The Science Inc.-backed company began recalibrating its manufacturing to focus on masks just as L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the "L.A. Protects initiative." The city is urging local manufacturers to make an estimated five million masks needed for essential workers over the next few weeks.
Lambs' masks are being sold for $18 and can also be donated to frontline workers in need. Essential workers can buy the masks at-cost for $10 online and employers can purchase them in bulk. Lambs says it will prioritize orders for essential workers.
Photo courtesy of Lambs
The company began deliveries last week, shipping out a couple thousand masks. Since then, Garcetti has issued an emergency order requiring all those who are working at or visiting an essential business to wear a face covering. Non-medical essential businesses can refuse to serve a person who is not wearing a face covering. And employers are required to provide face coverings to their employees or reimburse the employees for their cost.
To date, the company said it has "thousands of orders" and has hired two more workers to help ramp up production and shipping. Lambs is abiding by social distancing requirements at its factory, which is currently producing a little over 1,000 a week. It expects to get to 5,000 a week soon. With additional staff, if they can be safely fit into the space, Menard de Calenge said hitting 10,000 weekly could be possible.
As for the doctor who first messaged Lambs about help with making masks, he got the first ones off the production line.
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