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Boise company Buck's Bags pivots to manufacture protective masks, gowns for healthcare workers

After more than 40 years of making custom sporting goods, Buck's Bags is changing up its manufacturing line to make personal protective equipment.

BOISE, Idaho — The World Health Organization has said that the limited supply of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers is "one of the most urgent threats" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

To fill that void would take some big pivots by some American businesses. And many businesses have answered the call, including Buck's Bags, Boise-based company that normally specializes in sporting goods.

Buck's Bags has been a staple in Boise since 1979, making custom team equipment, including uniforms, bags and apparel. But after 41 years, they're changing up their manufacturing line to make personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

"We are transitioning our apparel manufacturing lines over to start making masks and gowns for our medical first responders," said general manager Todd Godfrey.

They're making masks and two types of gowns - reusable and disposable.

"Life Flight ordered 300 reusable gowns to start with,' Godfrey said. "The VA [Idaho Division of Veterans Services ] hospital is coming down tomorrow to finalize 1,500 masks and 1,500 gowns."

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When asked what how the idea came to be, Godfrey said it was a team effort.

"One of our salespeople came in and said, 'Hey I saw on the news this morning that nurses in Seattle are making their own masks,'" Godrey said. "He goes, 'Why can't we do that?' And after I thought about it, I said there's no reason we can't."

Because certain materials are no longer available, Buck's Bags is making do with available materials.

"The standards that were in place prior to this are changing so much drastically that now what it's coming down to is that the fabric is no longer available and so the general consensus we've received is that something is better than nothing," Godfrey said.

The masks and gowns are not medical grade. They're commercial grade.

"The stuff that we're producing gives that other layer of protection," Godfrey said.

And during times like these, every little bit of added protection and support is just what we need.

"We're just proud to be apart of this," Godfrey said. "Our first responders are really out there putting their lives on their line and we just want to make sure we're putting a product out there that's useful to them that keeps them safe so they can go home to their families night after night."

Buck’s Bags is not selling masks to the general public just yet. They’re working to build up their stock, and they want to first help first responders. They hope to retail to the general public in a month or so.

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