Nike Is About to Start Making Medical Equipment and Face Masks

As health-care facilities across the U.S. put out desperate calls for more face masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to supply workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nike is the latest brand to offer up its manufacturing facilities for the cause.

On its third-quarter earnings call Tuesday, CEO John Donahoe told investors and analysts that the Beaverton, Ore.-based company is working with leaders from Oregon Health & Science University to determine how best it can help. To start, it is prototyping protective face shields for nurses and doctors treating those infected with the novel coronavirus.

“Companies like Nike need to do our part,” said Donahoe. “So our teams in innovation and manufacturing are exploring designs for personal protective equipment, or PPE, to support doctors, nurses and others on the front line of this outbreak. … It’s been so energizing to see the quick-strike efforts of the cross-functional team to try to help with this critical need.”

As of March 25, Oregon had reported 209 positive COVID-19 cases and eight deaths, and the state’s congressional delegation joined others from around the country in calling on the federal government for more protective equipment to ensure workers aren’t infected on the job.

“We are deeply alarmed that the current supply of personal protective equipment in Oregon is inadequate to meet the urgent needs of health-care workers on the front lines of responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” the members wrote in a letter addressed to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “The United States is a hub of innovation and the supply challenges are surmountable, but it will require increased engagement from federal agencies.”

They urged the government to ease regulatory barriers for nonmedical manufacturers with the ability to produce PPE, and asked for guidance on specifications and acceptable materials.

“Regulatory burdens in approval processes for PPE should not exacerbate the risk exposure of workers or patients during this national emergency,” they wrote.

Last week, OHSU announced a $7 million donation from Nike’s current and former top brass — Donahoe and his wife, Eileen; Chairman Mark Parker and his wife, Kathy; and Phil and Penny Knight — to coordinate care and provide equipment as it combats COVID-19 in Oregon.

Around the country, other footwear companies are pitching in: Ferndale, Wash.-based insole maker Superfeet and sister company Flowbuilt Manufacturing have offered access to its 3D printers and production facilities to those in need of medical supplies.

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