Denver Mattress Company switching to face mask production to battle coronavirus outbreak
When the higher-ups at the Denver Mattress Co. heard about the mass shortages in face masks for medical professionals fighting the novel coronavirus, they looked inward.
Turns out, the same material used in face masks already was being used in the mattress industry.
As Colorado and states around the country grapple with a severe shortage in personal protection equipment during the COVID-19 crisis, the Denver mattress giant is shifting production from personal comfort to personal safety. The move comes as companies around the country, from automakers to apparel companies and even liquor distilleries, are retooling their businesses to confront the public health emergency.
“In showing the medical community (our prototypes), they’re very excited to get these to put on patients coming in until they can get diagnosed,” Bob Rensink, the company’s general manager for manufacturing, told The Denver Post.
Denver Mattress on Wednesday produced 1,200 face masks at its Denver factory, with plans to ramp up to 3,000 to 5,000 per day moving forward. The company has also offered to make ICU beds for additional patients as the outbreak worsens. The company is still making mattresses for orders and delivery, he added.
The masks are non-rated — meaning they don’t rise to the same safety level as the standard N95 masks, which prevent nearly all pathogens from getting through, Rensink said. While the outer material of the mattress masks — non-woven polypropylene — is roughly the same as an N95 mask, they do not have the same inner barrier material.
“It’s offering some protection, but it’s obviously a non-rated face mask,” Rensink said.
Still, he said organizations and major hospital groups have indicated they would welcome these masks. The company has been in talks with the local Veterans Administration medical center, and plans to supply their needs first, before opening their products up to other local facilities.
Cara Welch, spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association, said the organization is grateful for companies that want to help, but that it was her understanding hospitals may not currently be accepting masks that aren’t N95-rated, and some may not be accepting any homemade masks.
“As more hospitals consider moving to a universal masking protocol (meaning all staff in the hospital wear a mask all day – even if they are not in a COVID-19 patient care area specifically) and if traditional PPE supply becomes even more limited, these types of masks may become more necessary,” she said in an email.
At Denver Mattress, 20 employees are working on the masks six days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, Rensink said.
Denver Mattress has also reached out to city and state officials in Washington state and New York — two of the coronavirus epicenters — with offers to provide mattresses for satellite hospitals, he said.
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