A coalition of US apparel and textile firms has joined forces to build a supply chain to fast-track the manufacturing of medical face masks for hospitals, health care workers and citizens battling the spread of Covid-19.

Responding to an urgent call from the White House for medical supplies, yarn spinning giant Parkdale helped lead efforts with Hanesbrands, Fruit of the Loom and six other companies to set up a manufacturing supply chain and begin ramping up production of the masks. American Giant, Los Angeles Apparel, AST Sportswear, Sanmar, America Knits, Beverly Knits and Riegel Linen also form part of the coalition.

Dr Peter Navarro, assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, worked with the companies to help expedite production of the masks – the first of which have been approved by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The companies expect to begin production today (23 March) and will make the first deliveries by mid-week.

The firms say they are dedicating their assets, resources and manufacturing capacities to create a high output of face masks. Once fully ramped up in four to five weeks, the companies expect to produce up to 10m facemasks per week in the US and Central America.

Last week, US textile and nonwoven associations urged federal, state and local governments to deem these manufacturing facilities as "essential" to ensure workers are exempted from orders to stay at home during the Covid-19 crisis.