The “MyPillow task force” is coordinating a massive relief effort to bring personal protective equipment to the United States, buttressing White House efforts and turning over 75% of MyPillow’s manufacturing capacity to making face masks.
MyPillow is owned by Mike Lindell, a well-known TV pitchman and an avid supporter of President Trump.
Investor and former NFL safety Jack Brewer, who leads the task force, told the Washington Examiner that he is working 20-hour days negotiating with suppliers and logistics companies to import much-needed protective equipment for some of the country’s largest medical groups, including a children’s cancer hospital, two branches of the Armed Services, dozens of prison facilities, and other entities amid the global crunch.
Costs for factories have nearly doubled amid shortages of raw materials, Brewer said, with countries outbidding one another to acquire supplies. Shortages have led to testing delays, with National Guardsmen supporting the medical response unable to open testing sites without the necessary protection.
Brewer said he began to notice the shortage of protective supplies around him as he was helping deliver meals for children in South Florida as schools began to close, thinking to himself, “This is going to spread if we don’t start getting smarter.” Fear that the virus could spread quickly had already taken hold in Haiti, where he was securing emergency relief for an orphanage that he supports.
He approached Lindell in March wondering what U.S. businesses were doing to make operations safer and support one another’s needs. MyPillow is vertically integrated, with its own call center and logistical capabilities, and is not so big that it can’t shift gears and adapt, swinging quickly into action, Brewer explained.
As the task force sifts through hundreds of emails daily, Brewer finds himself fielding calls in the middle of the night from China, a time zone roughly 12 hours ahead. Brewer’s work leading relief missions in Haiti, Malawi, and after Hurricane Harvey helped him build a network and the skills needed to navigate the logistics of sourcing supplies. But there’s one major difference as he abides by the president’s social distancing guidance: “I’m not actually physically on the ground coordinating; I’m in my house.”
On the team are Lindell’s chief of staff and niece Sarah Cronin and about five other Minnesota-based employees detailed mostly from MyPillow’s procurement office, each working 12-hour days. Lindell business adviser John Bennett in New York is also helping out.
In an interview, Lindell said the MyPillow task force took shape in the days leading up to a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing in the Rose Garden, where Lindell and other business leaders spoke to the company’s coronavirus initiatives at the administration’s invitation. The company had already realigned much of MyPillow’s manufacturing capacity to sourcing the necessary materials and to sewing masks, and it had overhauled their Minnesota headquarters to become a social-distancing approved workplace.
Breaks are staggered, hand sanitizer is always within easy reach, and everyone from employees to visiting truck drivers must wear a mask to comply with their new coronavirus-era rules. “It’s going to be a different footprint when we come out of this,” Lindell said about how COVID-19 is changing America, expressing frustration that employees at essential businesses were still without masks.
Lindell was alarmed to see workers without protection at Walmart and at Whole Foods, grocery stores with billionaire owners, even as Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, who owns Whole Foods, sits at the helm of a giant global supply and distribution network.
Both Brewer and Lindell are looking ahead and urging Americans to take the White House guidance seriously.
“I’m talking to mayors and states that were not prepared for this, people at companies all over the country who have no emergency supplies,” Brewer said. He stressed that towns of 50 to 200,000 people still lack critical supplies.
Lindell wants to make sure that in the future, American manufacturing is ready for the surge, and he is taking stock of specialty items that aren’t currently manufactured here as he looks ahead.