ORMOND BEACH, Fla — One week ago, Fit USA Manufacturing was making sports apparel. Now, it's making masks and gowns for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of laying off employees the company is hiring more workers so it can make personal protective equipment (PPE) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Located about 80 miles south of Jacksonville, Fit USA Manufacturing has a 15,000 square foot factory in Ormond Beach. CEO Troy Olson says when the pandemic started, the orders for his company's sports apparel started getting canceled.
"I have to give credit to my team because they mentioned making face masks probably a week ago Friday when we were looking at everything shutting down, orders getting canceled," Olson said. "We were trying to figure out what our game plan was. We had 38 people here working we didn't want to lay off."
A short time later, he reached out to the city's economic development director and joined a conference call with the Florida Health Department and the heads of hospitals across the state.
"What I heard coming through the pipe was 'We are short on face masks. We're concerned about our staff. We have no PPE gear,' and they went on and on like that through the meeting," Olson recalled.
He offered to help make the items in high demand and practically overnight stopped making sports apparel and started making personal protective equipment.
"I'm talking with hospitals that have staff right now that have no masks, no masks whatsoever and they're walking through the hospital handling patients with no masks," Olson said. "We've got to get so fast. We're going to get ramped up. We're just working through how we get our second and third shift going."
In the past week, his company, working with private hospitals, has created masks for nurses and doctors to put on patients and ones for those on the front lines to use themselves.
"Today, we just passed a droplet test with Halifax Health. I wouldn't even know what a droplet test was a few days ago," Olson said. "We've got a PPE gown that we designed over the weekend to help with the testing, as they're to do these testing sites across the country that you drive through and get tested."
Olson said his company has already made and shipped 25,000 face masks. His goal as he hires more employees is to manufacture a million masks a week to get to those who need it the most, and they're working on PPE suits.
"This is what is amazing about our country," Olson said. "When we run into something like this, we all kind of join forces and work through it. My team, we've never been on the medical side of the house, but we have worked diligently, and we have figured out face masks and the three layers. We're just working together and as fast as we can."
His company is now seeking FDA approval for its tri-layer medical mask. Hospitals and companies can purchase the PPE gear online from Fit USA Manufacturing's website, and if you are interested in working for the company you can send them an email from their website.