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Vidalia Mills to make surgical masks and gowns in Louisiana

VIDALIA — Vidalia Mills and Keep it Here, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of T-shirts, jeans and other clothing, announced a new joint-venture to manufacture and distribute surgical masks, gowns and facemasks to assist medical professionals in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Vidalia Mills producers yarn and denim fabric and in recent years took ownership of the former Fruit of the Loom facility from the Town of Vidalia.

Vidalia Mills has purchased one automated surgical-grade mask-making machine along with two automatic N95 high-protection mask-making machines, which will be installed within the next 90 days in a new cleanroom facility that is under construction at the Vidalia Mills plant and will utilize nonwoven and other advanced textile materials.

The machines can produce up to 100 million units annually.

Additionally, Vidalia Mills has deployed 20 high-speed weaving looms to make lightweight cotton fabrics for the production of medical gowns and consumer facemasks to be cut and sewn at KIH in Los Angeles. In turn, the materials will be anti-viral and anti-microbial infused, and made with BASF’s e3 sustainable cotton fabrics.

“With the production of these urgently needed masks and garments, we’re working to rapidly build a supply of protective equipment requested by medical professionals and government leaders to help contain the expansion of the COVID-19 virus,” Vidalia Mills CEO Dan Feibus said in making the announcement.

Patrick Stewart, president of KIH, said, “With our highly trained team, we are able rapidly to design and manufacture products. Because of our manufacturing capabilities, we will be able to make a substantial supply of cotton surgical gowns and consumer face masks to help our country in its hour of need.”

KIH, a subsidiary of Omniverse Group, has hired Pietro D. Marghella, M.D., an expert in medical and public health emergencies, to oversee the medical requirements of the production at Vidalia Mills and KIH.

“I am pleased to work with the teams at KIH and Vidalia to get production ramped quickly by providing sound medical advice to make high-quality products for the medical community and public at large,” Marghella said of the new joint venture.

Jennifer Crumpler, director of the e3 sustainable cotton program at BASF, said the company is pleased that Louisiana’s farmers have a role in helping the healthcare community.

“BASF is pleased to play a role in supplying versatile cotton grown by farmers throughout the United States for much-needed medical equipment,” Crumpler said. “We are proud that our agricultural community is able to assist healthcare workers and citizens with gowns and face masks made from sustainable cotton during this unprecedented time.”