A day after President Trump appeared to single out the company during a White House news conference, Puritan Medical Products of Guilford, Maine, posted a blog on its website saying it has ramped up production of nasal swabs used to test people for coronavirus infection and is currently manufacturing “over 1 million swabs for COVID-19 testing a week.”

Puritan Medical in Guilford produces a million swabs a week for coronavirus testing. The swabs are long enough to reach through the nasal cavity to the upper part of the throat. Photo courtesy of Scott Wellman

Puritan said it was contacted by government officials several weeks ago and asked about its production capacity for the nasal swabs.

Whether that level of production will be sufficient is uncertain, but in an email Monday night to the Press Herald Puritan said it “is working virtually nonstop to produce and rush supplies to the testing and medical professionals, who urgently need them. This tremendous surge in demand for COVID-19 swabs and transport systems has resulted in inventory and order delays for many of our products at this time.”

The news comes amid calls for more testing for the coronavirus and warnings from the nation’s governors and medical experts that reopening the nation’s economy without dramatically increasing the capacity to test for the virus poses serious risks.

Puritan says it is one of only two manufacturers in the world that produce nasal swabs recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The swabs are highly specialized because they have to be long and skinny enough to reach to the nasopharynx, or the upper part of the throat behind the nose. They also must be made of synthetic fiber and cannot have a wooden shaft, according to the CDC.

Timothy Templet, Puritan’s executive vice president of global sales, did not respond to a request Monday night for comment on whether the White House was offering financial help so the company can increase production and hire more workers.

Trump said Sunday night that his administration is preparing to use the Defense Production Act to increase production at one U.S. facility by over 20 million additional nasal swabs.

Trump did not identify the company, but Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, said the White House plans to use the act to give Puritan Medical Supplies federal funding to boost production, CNN reported. Navarro told CNN that Puritan will be able to increase production to more than 20 million swabs per month within 30 days of the contract award.

In the meantime, Puritan says it is working to manufacture as many nasal swabs as possible.

“Our incredible team of dedicated employees are working 10-hour shifts, 7 days a week. We’re also hiring more than 30 temporary employees, helping to re-employ laid off teachers and manufacturing workers and providing jobs to out of school college students,” Puritan said in the blog posted Monday.

In addition to ramping up production and increasing its workforce, the company said it has shifted manufacturing lines and reconfigured equipment. Puritan said that to meet the national need for COVID-19 tests it has had to “redirect” some of its manufacturing capabilities, which “will result in inventory and order delays for our other products.”

Puritan currently manufactures more than 1,200 different types of swabs and collection devices for a variety of industries, and produces over 5 million swabs per day.

Puritan Medical Products employs about 300 workers. It represents the medical products division of Hardwood Products Company LLC and is one of the largest employers in Piscataquis County. Puritan and Copan Diagnostics, which is based in northern Italy, are the world’s top two producers of nasal swabs.


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