Coronavirus prompts Nike to explore making medical protective gear

CEO John Donahoe said innovation and manufacturing teams are looking at potential designs

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Nike is exploring the production of personal protective equipment to help health care workers treating patients during the coronavirus pandemic, CEO John Donahoe said during an earnings call on Tuesday.

Donahoe said Nike’s innovation and manufacturing teams are looking at potential designs for the items. Personal protective equipment, such as specialized clothing, face shields and masks, have been in high demand as hospitals around the country experience a surge in patients.

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"This is a moment in society where the private sector has a major role to play,” Donahoe said, adding that Nike aimed to “support doctors, nurses and others on the front line of this outbreak.”

Donahoe did not provide a timetable for when production on the equipment could begin.

When asked for details on the initiative, Nike said it was working in collaboration with Oregon Health & Science University on potential equipment designs, including prototype face masks for medical workers. The company added that its efforts would focus on coronavirus response efforts in Oregon, Nike's home state, to start.

“Based on needs identified by the teams and health professionals at Oregon Health & Science University, our teammates are working right now on how best to help, including prototyping face shields with OHSU,” Nike said in a statement. “We’re focused on working with OHSU to support Oregon healthcare workers, as a start. We’re energized by the quick-strike efforts of the cross-functional team to try to help with this critical need.”

Vice President Mike Pence said last week that the federal government has placed orders for hundreds of millions of face masks required by health care workers. Meanwhile, officials in New York, California and other states have noted massive shortages in key equipment, including personal protective equipment, hospital beds and ventilators.

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Various private companies have stepped up to produce necessary supplies. Hanes is among the firms manufacturing face masks, while alcohol beauty brands, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Estee Lauder, are making hand sanitizer.

Retailers such as Walmart, CVS and Walgreens will offer coronavirus testing centers.

Donahoe disclosed Nike’s plans after the apparel giant posted strong third-quarter results despite the impact of coronavirus on its operations in China. Nike shares surged 15 percent in trading Tuesday and after another 10 percent on the strong results after market close.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
NKENIKE INC.106.43-0.09-0.08%

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Nike topped Wall Street’s expectations with quarterly revenue of $10.1 billion and a profit of $847 million. However, earnings per share fell compared to the same quarter one year ago.

Company executives said roughly 80 percent of stores in China have reopened since the coronavirus outbreak forced widespread closures in February. Nike is using insights garnered from its experience in China to inform its strategy to weather the crisis in North America.

For now, Nike has shuttered U.S. stores as a precautionary measure. The company said stores will be reopened on a location-by-location basis in the coming weeks.

To date, Nike and its executives have committed $15 million toward coronavirus response efforts.

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This story has been updated.