Watch CBSN Live

General Motors re-opens closed Warren, Michigan, plant to make face masks

CDC says Americans should wear masks in public
CDC says Americans should wear masks in publi... 02:23

A formerly closed General Motors plant where workers once built transmissions for the Chevrolet Malibu has a new life – this time as a surgical mask production facility. 

The plant, which closed last August, began making Level 1 surgical masks on Monday as demand for face masks climbs across the nation. GM said machines needed to make the masks were delivered to the Warren, Michigan, plant last week. Workers will ratchet up production over the next two weeks so the facility can manufacture 50,000 masks a day. 

"Daily mask production will be influenced by the availability of materials to build the masks," GM said in a statement, adding that the plant can potentially make up to 100,000 masks a day. "GM will be collaborating with governments and local suppliers to distribute the masks."

Doctor on the importance of masks amid virus 03:33

The masks from Warren Transmission are in addition to the 20,000 masks GM said it delivered last week to health care and other workers most at risk of infection. 

Demand for face masks, particularly N95 respirators, have soared in recent weeks as Americans look to limit their exposure to the coronavirus. The nation's largest surgical mask manufacturer, Prestige Ameritech, said in February it is struggling to fill demand. Other companies have been caught price gouging for face masks on Amazon and later had their accounts suspended.

In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it doesn't recommend people use disposable face masks to prevent catching COVID-19. But the CDC revised its guidance last week, and the agency now "recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain," such as grocery stores and pharmacies. The Trump administration on Friday also recommended wearing cloth masks

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N95 respirators," the CDC said. "Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders."

Ford CEO on aiding the coronavirus effort 05:16

A wider call for mask use has created a supply shortage affecting health care workers and the public alike. Bauer, Brooks Brothers, Gap, Yves Saint Laurent, and other companies are now producing cloth masks for public use, while Ford, 3M and General Electric are making N95 masks and ventilators for medical professionals.

GM is also teaming with Ventec Life Systems, a medical device maker in Washington, to make ventilators at a plant in Indiana.

"We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic," GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. "This partnership has rallied the GM enterprise and our global supply base to support Ventec, and the teams are working together with incredible passion and commitment."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.