Winston-Salem-based HanesBrands will shift some of its production to making badly needed masks to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The company is joining with other corporations to produce the masks under a federal government contract.

Hospitals across the country are scrambling to catch up to the need for medical supplies sparked by the outbreak, including masks. It has led to criticism of the federal government as slow to respond.

A HanesBrands spokesman says textile and sewing plants in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador are being converted from making apparel such as t-shirts and socks in order to make the masks. It took less than a week to go from discussions with federal officials to startup production.

The masks HanesBrands will produce are FDA approved but do not provide the higher protection that N95 ones do. According to the FDA, face masks provide protection from splashes and droplets but won't stop small particles from coughs and sneezes the way the N95 face fitting respirators do.

HanesBrands says their cotton masks can be used when N95 ones are not needed or are unavailable.

Other companies involved include Parkdale Mills America and Fruit of the Loom.

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here.

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