Mississippi clothing company joins fight against the spread of the coronavirus

TUPELO, Miss. — A north Mississippi clothing factory has joined the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

It's the American way: when there's a need, someone steps up to meet it.

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The Blue Delta Jeans company in Tupelo turned part of its production to making medical masks because the demand is so great.

“We are still working on that, said CEO Josh West. “We think that we can cut up to 36,000 masks in a 24-hour period if we run our cutting machine.”

The company makes made-to-order blue jeans. They plan to split the factory in two and use half of it for making medical masks.

Chief Design Officer Johnson Benjamin told FOX13 he has already designed some prototypes.

“Jeans are way more complicated in construction. They have a lot of pieces and a lot of curves,” Benjamin said. “Masks - it's more of a functional item. The most important functions are to fit the face and to be able to curve, and the elasticity of the cords.”

West said setting up to make the masks should happen quickly.

“So luckily, we are a small company and we can pivot and change quickly,” he said.

Blue Delta Jeans saw a need and moved to fill it.

“This is a crisis. We have never seen something like this, and we talked about the idea this week and we have the capacity and the people, and we can handle the production,” West said.

The staff at Blue Delta said they are looking for input from the medical community as well.

“What we are doing now is trying to find out how to make it safely and how to make the right product,” West said. “When you are making something that goes on someone's face it is a little bit different, so we are working with the agencies and medical people to give us advice.”

Benjamin said they have already made several prototypes, now the company is looking into what materials should be used.

“Right now we are looking at how porous the mask material should be, how absorbing it should be for a cough and fluids and what are some of the different levels of requirements for each quality of masks,” he said.

The custom blue jean company said it’s looking for input from anyone who can help.

“The main thing we need to know is what do you need and where do you need it?” West said. “There are a lot of different types of masks.”

They hope to have their lines of masks up and running by the end of next week, possibly making tens of thousands each day.

They said they will also set up to make medical gowns.