BATH, Maine — Bath Iron Works (BIW) announced late Wednesday afternoon that it donated 3,200 medical-grade N95 respirators to MaineHealth, the largest health care system in the state, to help fight COVID-19.
The masks are being distributed to hospitals and other medical facilities throughout the state, the company said in a statement.
BIW's parent company, General Dynamics, has donated more than 21,000 pieces of persona protective equipment (PPE) to sites in New York City and Chicago, including the masks, boot covers and face masks, the release said.
Supplies of the masks are critically low throughout the country, including in Maine. On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that Maine received only 5 percent of the PPE requested from the national stockpile.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, said Maine received a third and likely last shipment of PPE from the federal government Monday night.
"We appreciate the support that companies like Bath Iron Works are providing us," MaineHealth spokesman John Porter said in a release. "Donations of personal protective equipment, like these N95 masks, are incredibly helpful. And this kind of demonstration of community support sends a wonderful message to our care team."
“We commend health care workers in Maine and around the country for their tremendous dedication during this difficult time,” BIW President Dirk Lesko said in the statement.
BIW's approximately 4,000 mechanics and 400 painters are among the company's employees who regularly use the masks and face shields.
Tuesday afternoon, Jeremy Fortin, a member of BIW's largest union, Local S6 of the Machinists Union, wrote to Maine Gov. Janet Mills and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins urging them to make sure BIW's stockpile of masks got to medical workers.
At 1:29 p.m., Fortin posted on the Bath Iron Works Friends page that he urged Mills and Collins to ensure BIW's "abundant supply of proper PPE" be sent to "the men and women truly on the front lines, the doctors, nurses, medical techs, medical clerks, etc. Our abundant supply of proper PPE should be sent [en] masse to those individuals, not held in storage at Bath Iron Works' warehouses or stock rooms."
Fortin wrote that BIW also has headgear and clear face masks needed by the medical community.
Contacted throughout the day on Tuesday, neither BIW, General Dynamics, nor spokespeople for Collins or Mills responded to repeated requests for comment.
Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said, “Maine CDC defers to the governor’s office and the congressional delegation on the unique situation at Bath Iron Works. With support from the governor and delegation, Maine CDC continues to push the Trump administration to distribute more personal protective equipment to Maine. Maine CDC is also looking to purchase PPEs from reputable private vendors.”
The donation was announced just before 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Of Fortin’s communication, Chris Wiers, president of Local S6, told NEWS CENTER Maine, “Standing firm on the union’s position on suspending production, it would probably be a great idea for the supplies to be better used for something that’s more important right now.”
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