Mass. Launches Program to Help Companies Produce Protective Gear Amid Pandemic

As of Sunday, there had been 25,475 cases of coronavirus reported in Massachusetts

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Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday announced a program that would fund local manufacturers to adjust their business models and produce personal protective equipment as the state battles the coronavirus outbreak.

Run by the administration's Manufacturing Emergency Response Team, the program supports local companies to make PPE such as gowns, face shields and shoe coverings as well as medical equipment such as swabs and ventilators.

Gov. Charlie Baker provides a COVID-19 update in Massachusetts.

In a press conference, Baker said the program has $10.6 million of grants available to help companies "pivot" their activities to produce PPE.

The program assists in identifying needed products and helps the companies set up to manufacture the products, Baker said.

"To say this is a difficult time (for small businesses) would be an understatement," Baker said. "But as usual, we are blown away with the resiliency, imagination and creativity of many of our entrepreneurs and business owners."

Baker highlighted local companies already making PPE, including New Balance, which is making shoe coverings and other products at its factory in Lawrence.

Doctors and nurses are preparing for a possible surge in coronavirus cases projected to hit Boston beginning Friday.

Companies looking to participate in the program can visit the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative website.

On Sunday, health officials reported 70 additional deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, bringing the state's death toll to 756. The state also reported 2,615 new cases of the virus, bringing the statewide total to 25,475.

Meanwhile, Baker said his administration was mobilizing resources to assist the city of Chelsea, which he said was among the hardest-hit municipalities.

In partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital, the state had increased testing capacity fourfold, Baker said. He added that a Quality Inn in the city was being prepared as an isolation facility.

In addition, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency will provide meal kits per week to the city, up from the previous number of 100. Each kit provides 35 meals.

As of last week, the state's models showed that the peak for cases was expected sometime between last Friday and April 20. But Baker on Friday said data in recent days suggests the peak may be closer to the latter date.

Nearly half of all deaths in the state -- 340, or 44% of the total -- came at long-term care facilities, health officials said last week.

Baker said the state continues to see "extremely high" levels of positive cases of COVID-19, emphasizing the need to maintain strict social distancing practices.

NBC10 Boston and the Associated Press
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