This is a developing story. As a result, some of the information or advice in this article may be out-of-date. Come back this week for the latest updates.

During a normal week at Detroit Sewn, founder and CEO Karen Buscemi says the hardworking staff at her sewing factory in downtown Pontiac would be busy cutting fabric, working on patterns and samples, or sewing commercial products ranging from leggings to swimwear and pillowcases.

The past week has been anything but normal, though.

As schools, businesses, and daily life across Michigan – and around the world – came to a grinding halt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last week, medical professionals began to prepare for the worst. In spite of the U.S. Surgeon General’s pleas asking consumers to stop purchasing and stockpiling hospital masks, supplies waned. As the virus spread and demand for protective personal equipment increased globally, the medical supply chain strained under the pressure and hospitals braced for an impending shortage of the masks and gowns necessary for the proper care of patients. Last week, while the outbreak continued to expand globally, the shortage grew increasingly precarious.

As hospitals around the state – and the globe – experience a shortage of protective medical gear due to coronavirus, Detroit apparel manufacturers have stepped in to dedicate their factories to producing masks while creating jobs in an uncertain economy.

On Wednesday, Buscemi says she received an inquiry about producing masks for Trinity Health, a health system with 92 hospitals and hundreds of health care facilities across 22 states, including Michigan. She says she knew right away that the problem was urgent. “I have never been more proud of my team,” she says, adding that the crew was able to pull everything together in “basically a day and a half” in order to start production by Monday morning.

Buscemi says the team quickly manufactured four prototypes before arriving at the final mask design. On Thursday night, she put out an urgent call for professional sewers. By Saturday, Buscemi says she received over 1,000 requests to work. Ultimately, she was able to add five new team members to her initial staff of seven over the weekend.  Read More