An employee at Puritan Medical Products places swabs on a conveyor in June 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic was announced. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald file

PITTSFIELD — State and local officials are looking to assist the 251 workers furloughed by Puritan Medical Products after the company saw a decrease in demand for the medical swabs it produces.

The company experienced a surge in demand in 2021 as testing ramped up during the  COVID-19 pandemic.

“Today’s actions are a sad reality of the current market conditions we are facing and are no reflection of the amazing work and dedication of our employees,” Bob Schultz, Puritan’s president and chief financial officer, wrote in a letter last week to employees.

A state team was at Puritan’s facility in Pittsfield this week to help those affected by the furloughs, according to Jessica Picard, communications manager for the Maine Department of Labor.

The team’s role included explaining unemployment insurance, health insurance, training in new fields and other matters.

Kathryn Ruth, Pittsfield’s town manager, said the town will look to provide assistance, but will wait a week or two before getting involved.


Puritan announced the furloughs last week, saying in a statement the company hopes to rehire employees within six months. The action was driven by a downturn in demand for medical swabs.

The company is the largest manufacturer of medical swabs in the country, and at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Puritan had opened two factories in Pittsfield and one in Tennessee. The company laid off 57 temporary employees last month in Tennessee.

Furloughed workers will continue to receive insurance benefits, and the company has set up an employee assistance center in Pittsfield.

After the furloughs, 117 employees will continue to work at the two Pittsfield locations, while there are 281 employees at a location in Guilford and 90 in Tennessee, according t0 the company.

Schultz wrote in his letter that the company regretted “having to make these difficult decisions, but they are necessary to keep Puritan strong.”

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