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Maine-based company producing masks to help fight COVID-19

"It was never a question of ‘can we help?’… It was ‘where can we help?'"
Credit: Photo: Origin USA

FARMINGTON, Maine — An athletic wear manufacturing company based in Farmington is developing and producing innovative masks for the general population to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

Origin USA, owned and co-founded by Pete and Amanda Roberts, makes Jiu Jitsu, MMA, BJJ, Grappling, and lifestyle athletic products and clothing. With a shortage of masks and protective supplies across the country, to do their part in fighting the spread, the company is retooling its production lines to go full production on a mask they designed, called the Defender DEF Mask.

“Being in manufacturing and having access to all our human resources, raw materials and machinery we knew there was something we could do to help people and our nation with the shortages,” Amanda told NEWS CENTER Maine. “Our chain of supply is 100% domestic. There is no dependence on other countries. It was never a question of ‘can we help?’… It was ‘where can we help? What void can we fill? How can we fill the gaps?’”

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Origin USA has been active on social media throughout the process. Three days ago, they posted a photo of a mask prototype on Instagram, asking their followers if they thought they should make them.

The comments poured in.

Doctors, nurses, cops, and people from the general public voiced their support for the idea, which lead the company to clean up the prototype design. Just two days later the company was up and running manufacturing the masks.

Pete explained on social media that the masks are not creating N95 respirator face masks, which are used by medical professionals to protect from airborne particles. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says respirators, including those intended for use in healthcare settings, are certified by the CDC/NIOSH. An N95 respirator mask filters out at least 95 percent of airborne particles.

“The goal is that even if you can decrease the particle absorption by 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 percent, it’s still a good thing. So, something is better than nothing,” Pete said in a video post on Instagram.

He explained that his masks act as a vessel. There is a slot that you can insert whatever type of filter desired or available. Roberts said he used a paper towel to test it but said carbon filters or any other type of filter will work.

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The fabric used is designed to fit perfectly around your body, unlike a traditional surgical mask that is loose-fitting. The Origin USA masks are being made with the same textile as what is used in their Nogi compression gear. “It is a durable material, made from Origin WarpWick©. WarpWick© has antimicrobial and moisture-wicking properties,” Amanda said.

Amanda said they went through a few prototypes before deciding on one that worked best, but they knew what features needed to be included: comfort, uniform in size, washable and reusable, and adaptable to be able to be used with other inserts or medical masks.

Amanda and Pete began mass production of the masks on Monday, and they say it’s going ‘AWESOME!’ so far.

Amanda said, “Everyone is dedicated to our mission and motivated to fill the gap. It is human nature to want to help especially in such volatile, uncertain times. People naturally come together as a way to feel a sense of fulfillment. Our staff and customers are no exception. We consider each other family, and our customers are an extension of our family. Our company’s motto is “WE GET TO DO THIS” and that has never been more true than today! We GET to come to work and help our country stay safe and WIN this invisible war! We will continue retooling as needed to supply the demand. Our customers are the best customers and they are willing to wait for their boots and jeans so that we can go to war against COVID-19.”

Origin USA is distributing their masks all over the U.S. and Canada. They can be purchased on their website, https://originmaine.com

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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