After closing a large portion of its factory and furloughing a number of workers last month due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Arcata-based sports gear and apparel company Kokatat is repurposing its stock of fabrics and getting back to business.
In the coming weeks, the company plans to bring its factory employees back to work to begin making, among other things, face masks made from materials used in the company’s clothing lines.
“We are making that pivot now,” Kakotat’s Director of Sales Jeff Turner told the Outpost. “We’ll start production on the masks next week. Our first priority is to make enough for our employees, then fill other orders.”
Turner said that it’s still unclear how many masks they will be able to make, but added that they will try to make as many as possible to help meet the demand for the highly coveted masks.
“We’re still trying to hone in on the final design,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of manufacturing companies reach out to us to get masks for their employees. We’re trying to focus on supporting the caregivers working on the frontlines. Not solely the medical community, but also the first response community.”
Although the masks will not officially be FDA-certified, Turner said that they will have a similar design to ones that are. The Kokatat masks will use two layers of a brushed polyester tricot material and include an internal pocket for disposable HEPA filters.
“[The polyester] is basically a woven material very commonly used in apparel products,” he said. “It has a soft feel against the face.”
While the company will be working to provide masks for the local community and elsewhere, Turner said that Kokatat is also an “essential business” that makes chemical and biohazard suits for the U.S government, and so it will need to find a middle ground between mask making and business as usual.
“We’re doing our best to support the needs of the healthcare community and local community as best we can,” he said. “Balancing that with keeping our business rolling.”