Coronavirus: Orange County sportswear company making face masks amid COVID-19 pandemic

BREA, Calif. (KABC) -- Workers used to sewing Bayside T-shirts and other clothing for AST Sportswear are now making face masks.

"I have to do something. I have a big factory. I can do something," said Abdul Rashid, chief operating officer of AST Sportswear in Brea.

The change happened overnight as local and state governments ordered people to stay home to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Leaders at AST Sportswear also started seeing messages from health care professionals desperate for face masks.

Managers reconfigured their plant in Brea.

"We actually ordered 30 more machines just to make these masks. Our workers are all here, we're trying to not lay anybody off," said Nadir Zulfiqar, sales manager at AST Sportswear.

About 500 employees there now work different shifts -- spaced 6 feet apart -- sewing face masks. They're American made, 100% cotton and washable.

Shipments are already going out across the U.S., mainly to hospitals and medical facilities in need.

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Boxes containing 150 masks were headed to Anaheim Regional Medical Center. The masks were being donated and shipped for free.

"All across the nation, whoever needs it, we're going to send it to them," said Rashid.

The company stresses they are not medical grade masks, but meant to help those who are working without.

"This is something to help the people who are in a waiting room or somebody is walking out," said Zulfiqar.

The company says it will make them for as long as possible.

"We're reaching out to other companies to participate with us. We'll do it as long as we can," said Rashid

The COO says he has a goal to donate one million masks by the end of April.
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