The New Balance factories in Norridgewock, above, and Lawrence, Massachusetts, have begun manufacturing protective face masks for emergency and health care workers. By mid-April, the company hopes to be making 100,000 masks per week between the two factories.

Production of protective face masks is underway at New Balance factories in Norridgewock and Lawrence, Massachusetts, as the company seeks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

While the Boston-based manufacturer of athletic footwear and apparel has temporarily closed its offices and stores and is furloughing many employees, including some who work at its factories, it has turned its focus and manufacturing to making masks for emergency and health care workers.

New Balance officials said that when the factories are at full production, perhaps by mid-April, the company expects 150 employees will be making 100,000 masks per week between Norridgewock and Lawrence.

The masks are being produced according to health and safety guidelines mandated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, according to New Balance officials.

Jennifer Keddy, manager of global public relations for New Balance, said in an email Wednesday the company is working on coordinating distribution efforts of the masks with government officials, local medical institutions and others.

“This includes the hospitals who supported our initial fit testing and R&D work, as well as New England facilities the company has historical relationships with and Massachusetts and Maine state procurement offices,” Keddy said.

“We are also exploring federal U.S. government procurement opportunities as we determine our production quantities and face mask applications and demand.”

New Balance was not able to provide specific information this week about the number of workers making masks at the Norridgewock factory or how many have been furloughed.

The company announced last month its New Balance Foundation has given $2 million to help support local, regional and global communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including a portion to Norridgewock.

While employees are furloughed, New Balance said it is working to mitigate the financial impact by maintaining health care benefits for employees, with 100% of the premiums paid by the company.

President and CEO Joe Preston and other New Balance executives have also agreed to cut their salaries by 50% for the foreseeable future, according to the company.

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