PATERSON, NJ – With the number of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey continuing to climb and overwhelm hospitals, medical supplies are running short in many emergency rooms.

Over the past two weeks, common medical supplies like ventilators, medical masks, hospital gowns and hand sanitizer have become scarce and supply manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand.

A growing number of businesses, including two factories in Paterson, have shifted production efforts to help address the dwindling supply of personal protective gear for healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak.

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At LBU, Inc., which is known for manufacturing custom bags and accessories, workers are now hand-making cloth face masks, head masks and gowns. Over at The Tablecloth Company, cloth masks are also being produced.

During a visit to LBU on Wednesday, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said, “I’ve said time and time again ‘We’re at war.’”

The coronavirus pandemic – which has claimed the lives of 81 people in New Jersey and more than 1,000 across the country – isn’t the first time industries in Paterson have rallied for a war effort, Sayegh said.

Back during World War II, Paterson-based Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Corporation produced aircraft engines for all of the B-17 Flying Fortresses used during the war, along with the B-25 bombers that participated in the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in 1942 and the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945.

“Paterson did its part to win the war and Paterson is doing its part once again to win this war,” Sayegh said in a Facebook live video from the factory.

About two weeks ago, LBI “repurposed” to use its sewing machines to make gowns and facial masks out of fabric, according to LBU’s chief executive officer, Jeffrey Mayer. After shifting gears, LBU is making 100,000 masks a week and is aiming for a weekly goal of 200,000, he said.

The reusable and washable masks, he said, can hopefully “alleviate the use of N95 masks” but are not medical grade. 

Mayer said the effort not only supports the medical community, but also helps keep his 100 employees in a job during difficult times.

“When this is all over, I think we’ll come out much stronger,” Mayer said of the coronavirus crisis.

Mary Kerr, VP at The Tablecloth Company, which makes tablecloths, napkins, placements, chair covers and drapes, said workers recently started producing masks made from cloth.

“We are on a skeleton crew right now,” she told TAPinto Paterson Thursday. “We are doing time trials to see what our capacity would be. The majority of work this week has been on personal protective equipment alternative products.”

“Paterson gave birth to industries that helped power the growth of our nation,” Sayegh said. “As our nation faces this global health emergency it is fitting that once again Paterson industry is stepping up to make sure we emerge victorious.”

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