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Online retailer Fanatics will use material from Major League Baseball uniforms to craft much-needed protective equipment for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, the company announced on Thursday.
Fanatics has halted production of MLB uniforms and converted its factory in Easton, Pa., to make medical gowns and masks. To start, the company will use material originally intended to produce Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees uniforms.
“The COVID-19 crisis has compelled our country to be more collaborative, innovative and strategic than ever before,” Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin said in a statement. “As the demand for masks and gowns have surged, we’re fortunate to have teamed up with Major League Baseball to find a unique way to support our frontline workers in this fight to stem the virus, who are in dire need of essential resources.”
Rubin said Fanatics has begun production of as many as one million masks and gowns. The goods will be donated to hospitals and other priority destinations in Pennsylvania, with plans to expand deliveries to facilities in New York and New Jersey.
Hospitals around the country have reported dire shortages of masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, required to keep workers safe while treating patients. There was more than 80,000 individual confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, in the United States as of Thursday.
“I’m proud that Major League Baseball can partner with Fanatics to help support the brave healthcare workers and emergency personnel who are on the front lines of helping patients with COVID-19,” MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement. “They are truly heroes.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro contacted Rubin to assess whether Fanatics could aid in mask production, a company spokesman said. Once MLB officials signed off on the idea, Fanatics began production.
Fanatics is MLB’s official merchandise partner, with exclusive rights to produce uniforms for public sale. Nike is MLB’s official uniform supplier for on-field use.
MLB has delayed the start of its 2020 season due to the coronavirus outbreak. At present, it’s unclear when it will be safe for play to resume.