Oak Hall shifts production from caps and gowns to hospital masks

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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ) - Steady hands pull thread. There are too many spools in this warehouse to count.

WDBJ7 photo

The result: a status symbol. Caps and gowns are recognized anywhere. They stand for completion, celebration, joy.

Feelings that are hard to come by in the middle of so many interruptions.

"Many graduates are calling us to say, can I still get a cap and gown? Because I would like to take pictures with family and friends," said Joe D'Angelo, president of Oak Hall.

Graduation pictures forever sit on mantles and hang on walls, they're the ones coveted by family members and friends, and Oak Hall Cap and Gown wants to make sure that still happens, even without the official ceremonies.

"We sell about 1.8 million," said D'Angelo. 1.8 million each year to 1,700 universities and colleges around the country.

But in the middle of graduation season, a new season has demanded the attention of the 300 employees there who sew.

"What ended up happening is that Johns Hopkins has provided the fabric for us so it was fully tested, fully approved by them, and the shipment arrived here Monday night, with their couriers, so we could start production on Tuesday," said D'Angelo.

Production of 1,000 hospital masks a week. There's four Oak Hall warehouses in Southwest Virginia. So that's 20,000 hospital masks a week for the next five weeks.

"And our commitment to Johns Hopkins will be, we will produce 1.3 million masks."

With each fabric fold, and each stitch, another mask goes into a box, the work though, is being done safely. Only employees are allowed inside, and each sewing station is more than 6 feet away from the next. Everyone is doing their part.

"And what our medical staffs are going through and what patients are going through is a tragedy, and we're just doing our very small part to say we helped during this time," said D'Angelo.

We don't know when time will return to normal, when production here will be back focused on caps and gowns.

But maybe this mask will become a new symbol in this season, something to remember what everyone went through, together.

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