Posted Mar 25, 8:00 PM
In the age of a pandemic, what do a North Brunswick mattress company and a Paterson tablecloth factory have in common?
Both companies have decided to use their expertise to start making medical masks, fighting the dwindling supply of the critically needed and potentially life-saving masks for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak in New Jersey.
At its North Brunswick factory, mattress manufacturer Eclipse International will pivot from making mattresses to producing an initial batch of 38,000 masks, with plans to donate all the masks to healthcare workers who have been pleading for more supplies of protective gear. The first batch will be donated to the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, in New Brunswick, according to a statement.
The switch started when Stuart Carlitz, president and CEO of Eclipse International, watched a grim report of a shortage of the masks and realized much of the same materials were used for the mattresses he had been making for years.
“This all started Friday morning when I heard Governor Cuomo in New York talk about the fact that they were out of masks and scrambling to find them and that they were actually paying much higher prices than what masks were being sold for weeks earlier," said Stuart Carlitz, president and CEO of Eclipse International. “My first thought was that’s really terrible that people would take advantage of this time to profit.”
Looking down at masks his wife had given him to protect himself, Carlitz saw that one of the materials used in the mask were the same as in the mattresses: an Elite nonwoven fabric textile.
After ordering materials the company didn’t have, including elastic, the company is set to produce the three-layer masks, Carlitz said.
“I started researching on the internet for designs,” he said. “Sourcing the materials that I needed. We got our first delivery of elastic Monday morning. We immediately made several prototype masks.”
Additional materials came in Tuesday, with production expected to ramp up this week.
In Paterson, at the Tablecloth Company, which makes — you guessed it — table clothes, requests from customers to look into making masks prompted the company to work at some prototypes. Many of the requests came from customers at nursing homes, where outbreaks of the virus can often be deadly.
The flip to making the tiny, stretchy masks that just barely cover the mouth and nose is a learning experience for a company that puts together mattresses. Much less material is used, but machines need to be retrofitted and employees retrained.
But the unprecedented need calls for unprecedented changes. Eventually, if the first batch goes well, Carlitz has plans to expand to other places that need the masks. All of the masks though, will remain free.
“I’m not trying to sell masks,” said Carlitz. “Whether it’s a dollar apiece or four dollars apiece, that’s not going to change my business. I’m going to donate the masks.”