Veteran-owned shirt company shifts to making masks for doctors and nurses: 'This is not about money'

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An Army veteran and the CEO of an apparel company in Georgia who is shifting his operations to make protective masks for doctors and nurses amid the coronavirus outbreak said on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday that he “needs support.”

Tyler Merritt, the CEO of Nine Line Apparel, made the comment as the country struggles with a shortage of medical masks.

“I'm an engineer, I'm also a former Army officer, I'm also a member of the special operations community, I'm also the son of a person who will die if he contracts this, I'm also the son of a nurse, I'm also the father of children who could potentially die,” Merritt said. “So this is not about money, this is about coming together, cutting through the red tape, this is also about identifying those horrible, massive conglomerates that are hoarding materials.”

Because of the shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), some hospitals are now using equipment with ultraviolet light to decontaminate N95 masks so they can be reused.

CORONAVIRUS N95 MASK SHORTAGE PROMPTS HOSPITALS TO DECONTAMINATE AND REUSE

Doctors typically use a new N95 mask -- tight-fitting face-covers that filter out particles that could carry the coronavirus and other germs -- to treat each patient. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends wearing surgical masks, including the N95 mask once.

However, as medical professionals struggle with shrinking supplies of personal protective equipment, doctors say using ultraviolet light to kill viruses as a decontamination method is an option.

Speaking via Skype from Savannah, Ga., Merritt said he wants to increase the supply of protective masks but needs help from the government on "testing procedures [and] FDA guidelines."

“The independent tests that are being done are showing incredible results with integrating 2020 technology into a system that is reliant on these 1950s style masks,” he continued, adding that 3M creates the N95 mask but their main manufacturing capabilities are in China.

He then noted that “those masks that once cost 70 cents are now being charged $7 per mask.”

“The commodity, the specific material that we used for that mask, it used to cost $6,000 a ton, it's now being treated as a commodity, almost $600,000 a ton,” Merritt said.

He then went on to explain that there are two machines in the U.S. that “need to be running full speed” to help produce “the most critical masks.” He said the machines are in New Hampshire and North Carolina.

“All resources need to be directed towards that machine to make as much of that melt-blown material as possible and then disseminating it to as many manufacturing facilities around the country as possible,” he said.

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Merritt went on to say that “any materials they send to us, we are giving it out at that exact same cost.”

“They sent me 2,000 masks for free, I sent them out for free. They sent me tens of thousands of masks at 50 cents per mask, I'm selling them for 50 cents per mask,” he said. “I’m trying to broker these deals between the private sector and the government at zero cost because I want to return to making T-shirts. I do not want to be in the mask business.”

When host Brian Kilmeade asked Merritt what he is asking from the government, he said: “The funding [from the government] is going to multibillion-dollar companies that are going to squander, they are going to take forever, they are not sharing information, they are not sharing materials.”

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“We’ll test it. If it doesn't work, we’ll pivot, but I'm pretty sure the solutions we have will work,” he added.

Fox Business’ Jeanette Settembre contributed to this report.