Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is urging fashion designers and other manufacturers to shift their efforts toward producing medical supplies — and he wants the federal government to make the same request.
“I have apparel manufacturers who I am asking to stop making dresses, to start making the masks that people wear,” Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday. “This is what the federal government should be doing, and they should be doing it with their federal authority under the Defense Production Act.”
Under the Defense Production Act (DPA), the U.S. government has the authority to order companies to make products that are needed to fight the novel coronavirus. However, President Donald Trump has declined to enforce the act so far, arguing that companies are donating vast quantities of equipment without having to be ordered to do so.
Due to a shortage of N95 face masks, which protect medical workers from contracting the virus, some doctors and nurses have taken to reusing masks against CDC advice. Others are using bandanas or scarves as protection as a last resort.
If the government orders factories to manufacture masks, gowns and ventilators, that could be “the difference between life and death,” Cuomo said Sunday.
“It’s not hard to make a mask or PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) equipment or a gown, but you need companies to do it,” he said.
Some in the fashion industry have already taken up the challenge: Designer Christian Siriano has his sewing team making masks instead of dresses. Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond has converted his New York office into a donation center for masks, gloves and other medical supplies. In France, LVMH has ordered 40 million masks from China to help the country address its own shortage. And many fashion and footwear brands have stepped in financially to help those impacted by the coronavirus crisis, including Nike, Under Armour and Kenneth Cole.
In the U.S., there have been over 31,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. More than 300 fatalities have been recorded.