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Sterling apparel maker switches to mask production

Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 8, 2020

 Gettees says cloth masks don’t offer the full protection of an N95 mask, but they still offer some facial protection. The company says it is also working on medical-grade masks in partnership with another business.

Gettees says cloth masks don’t offer the full protection of an N95 mask, but they still offer some facial protection. The company says it is also working on medical-grade masks in partnership with another business.

Photo provided by Gettees

 A Gettees employee works on a mask at the company’s Sterling Heights factory. The company has been making cloth masks and donating them to medical workers amid news of protective equipment shortages.

A Gettees employee works on a mask at the company’s Sterling Heights factory. The company has been making cloth masks and donating them to medical workers amid news of protective equipment shortages.

Photo provided by Gettees

STERLING HEIGHTS — Mathew Hunt is familiar with manufacturing locally. 

As the founder of the Michigan clothing company Gettees, he is used to his Sterling Heights factory cutting and sewing T-shirts, hoodies and other apparel for sale online. 

But Hunt, 28, said the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic gave him a new mission, adding facial masks to the list of items his company produces — at least for now. He wants his business to “help out as much as we can” to protect frontline workers against the virus.

“Once the coronavirus started happening, we repurposed our resources of cutting and sewing and started making masks,” he said. 

“Over the week of (March) 21, I was on Twitter or whatever, just reading all these articles about these shortages of masks. (We decided that) starting Monday, let’s start reaching out to these places.”

Hunt said Gettees paused its manufacturing of traditional apparel March 19, and March 23 was the first day Gettees started making masks. First they started with getting together and doing the patterning.

“It took us a day. Everyone got trained on it real quick,” he said. 

Hunt said he, his production manager and eight sewists are now working together to make around 300-500 cloth masks. Hunt said the factory workers take major precautions in order to stay safe, and other Gettees staff is working from home.

The cloth masks are made of Gettees’ 4.7 oz. Supima interlock cotton. A special sewing machine that is used to make side seams plays an important role in stitching the masks together, he explained.

He said the cloth masks aren’t as ideal at protecting health care workers as a N95 masks, but “it’s still better than nothing.” A Gettees press release said “cotton masks are proven to be over 50% effective at blocking germs compared to no mask at all.”

“And a lot of people we’ve talked to, they're using them as a cover for their N95 mask,” Hunt added. “They use it to increase the longevity on them.”

Hunt said the masks have been donated directly to nurses, local hospitals, medical facilities and other organizations.

“They’re just trying to get their hands on anything they can for any kind of protection,” he said. “The fastest way is to give it to them directly.”

He said Gettees is also working as a subcontractor in partnership with another company, Ezywrap, to make medical-grade Microbe Safety Masks. Hunt said production of the medical-grade masks began April 6, and those will be sent back to Ezywrap. Meanwhile, he said Gettees plans to continue making cotton masks to donate.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor welcomed Gettees’ contribution to protecting health care workers, and he said he is proud of the city’s business community.

“They’ve really stepped up and answered the call to get PPE (personal protective equipment) and masks and anything that they can to help our frontline workers here,” Taylor said. “It’s like a wartime effort. We’re all pulling together to do everything we can to help the people who need it most.” 

Learn more about Gettees by visiting gettees.us. Find out more about Ezywrap by visiting ezywrap.com.