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Trump to meet with textile makers as companies shift to masks, gowns: Navarro

FILE PHOTO: White House trade adviser Peter Navarro listens to a news conference about a presidential executive order relating to military veterans outside of the West Wing of the White House in Washington, U.S. March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with American textile industry representatives on Monday as clothiers seek to shift their production lines to face masks and other critical items amid the coronavirus outbreak, the White House said.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, in an interview on Fox News, said the Republican president would meet with the National Council of Textile Organizations, whose members include companies such as HanesBrands Inc, Under Armour Inc and Bershire Hathaway Co’s Fruit of the Loom.

DuPont unit DuPont Protection Technologies, Cargill Cotton and privately held companies such as Jockey International Inc and the Lycra Co are also council members.

Such companies are aiming “to repurpose their factories from making things like T-shirts into gowns and masks and things like cotton swabs” used for coronavirus testing, much like General Motors has moved to use its auto factories to make ventilators for patients with difficulty breathing, Navarro said.

Trump is scheduled to meet with “industry representatives” at 2 p.m.(1800 GMT), according to a schedule released by the White House.

A severe lack of U.S. medical supplies has hampered healthcare workers on the front lines treating coronavirus patients, leaving hospitals and states scrambling for protective gear.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also urged Americans to wear masks to help prevent the spread of the disease, but it has encouraged using homemade and other varieties to keep medical-grade ones available for first responders and healthcare workers.

Navarro also said the administration is focusing on protocols to keep U.S. factories in general open during the outbreak, including screening workers for potential cases.

“We’re trying to figure out the best protocols to keep our factories going,” he said. “We’re going to have to use appropriate protocols, different social distancing. You’re going to have to reconfigure factories. You’re going to have to use things like thermoscanners to check (for) fever as they come in.”

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Toby Chopra and Jonathan Oatis

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