In July, St. Louis was still scrambling to raise $500,000 to buy machinery that would allow him to test the fabric used in masks. Meanwhile, he refers inquiries about mask testing to a company in Nevada—the lone private laboratory in the US certified by the CDC to perform such tests.
Meanwhile, 40 miles south of Conover, in the town of Belmont, the Textile Technology Center at Gaston College specializes in what the industry refers to as “yarn.” Give Dan Rhodes a small sample of a novel polymer, and he’ll figure out how to extrude it into a filament, and how to fine-tune the process to see whether the material can be made to work in high-speed manufacturing. Rhodes and his colleagues are working with a manufacturer of coronavirus test kits to make the fiber wicks that siphon saliva samples into a blend of testing reagents. Another client is an Ohio-based