Under Armour is the latest brand to pivot production to assist in the fight against novel coronavirus.
The Baltimore-based footwear and apparel brand announced on March 31 it plans to manufacture and distribute more than 500,000 fabric face masks while assembling and distributing 50,000 specially equipped fanny packs to support the 28,000 healthcare providers and staff that comprise the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS).
“This is an unprecedented time. Companies with the ability to innovate and provide resources to make a difference are needed now more than ever,” Under Armour CEO Patrik Frisk said in an e-mail. “Our partners at the University of Maryland Medical System and other medical organizations on the frontlines of this pandemic are facing a new kind of challenge. We hope to deploy our heritage in helping make athletes better—as well as our legacy of local community support—in this new way to help the heroic healthcare workers as they make the lives of all better every day.”
The United States is currently facing a face mask shortage as novel coronavirus continues to sweep through the nation; as of 9:20 a.m. March 31 there are more than 161,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 3,000 deaths.
Reports earlier this month suggested if novel coronavirus would be declared a pandemic—which the World Health Organization did declare on March 11—medical workers in the country would need an estimated 3.5 billion face masks over the year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
With numbers rising and the demand for medical equipment also increasing, various sports companies have stepped up to contribute during these unprecedented times.
Fanatics announced on March 26 it is partnering with Major League Baseball to support emergency personnel in the fight against novel coronavirus by making hospital face masks and gowns out of the same material used to make baseball jerseys. Nike announced on March 25 it is prototyping personal protective equipment including face shields with guidance from healthcare workers at Oregon Health & Science University. New Balance is producing prototypes for face masks out of its manufacturing facility in Lawrence, Massachusetts, with the hopes to scale production throughout its other New England factories soon.
Under Armour designed a one-piece face mask that doesn’t require sewing. The mask’s origami-style folds mold the fabric into the desired mask shape. Under Amour senior vice-president of advanced material and manufacturing innovation Randy Harward estimates the company can generate as many as 100,000 masks per week moving forward utilizing its knife cutter which can carve nearly 100 pieces of fabric at once.
The brand is not only helping supply healthcare providers and staff at UMMS, it has begun providing face masks to LifeBridge, a regional health care organization based in Baltimore, and is in discussion with Johns Hopkins Medicine, MedStar and other local medical institutions regarding supplies.
Under Armour, which is exploring 3-D printing N95 and N80 masks for medical professionals, has already delivered 1,300 face shields to UMMS.
“Ensuring the health and safety of our medical staff and patients is our first priority,” said Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of University of Maryland Medical System. “The national shortage of personal protective equipment has put our hospitals—and every other hospital in the country—under intense pressure to manage supplies while delivering care in a setting that is safe for our patients and employees.
“By quickly pivoting their manufacturing focus and producing this much-needed equipment, Under Armour is yet again demonstrating its firm commitment to Maryland’s communities while helping to save lives. We are incredibly grateful.”