I can’t even describe how stressful the past week has been – but I don’t have to. You know, because everyone’s been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, between the shutdowns, the quarantines, and the unknown. This virus has turned our lives upside down, and it seems like there may be weeks of this ahead.
When things go sideways my go-to stress-relieving activities are sewing and cooking. Some of my best sewing work is from volunteer assignments I’ve taken on, making costumes for Maui Academy of Performing Arts and teaching sewing to seventh- and eighth-graders each week. So when the oncology nurses said they were running low on personal protective equipment (PPE), I jumped in and made as many supplies as I could. I wasn’t the only one, there’s an outpouring on social media of other home sewers jumping in.
Why are the medical supplies so low?
A recent New York Times article described a perfect storm that contributed to the shortage. Prior to COVID-19 we had major fires in Australia and California, and firefighters and other emergency personnel were utilizing masks. Then the eruption of coronavirus in China interrupted manufacturing and supply, and half of the world’s PPE is made there. Last, people have been buying them up for personal use, which is a big no-no. The medical industry needs them more than you.
What can we do on Maui?
Concerned citizens want to contribute to a solution. So what can we do? Ericka Agdinaoay from Maui Health’s Maui Memorial Medical Center says the hospital can use donations of PPE.
“We have seen a tremendous outpouring of support in the community,” she says. We are humbled by the generosity of individuals, nonprofits, and others who are reaching out to offer their support. This is an unprecedented and unpredictable time and in an abundance of caution, we are partnering with the Maui Health Foundation to serve as a community drop-off site for personal protective equipment donations. PPE donations such as N95 masks, face shields, etc. will be gratefully received and will be allocated to the areas of greatest need in our hospitals and within the community. This will help ensure we can continue to protect our patients, providers, staff, and the people of Maui.”
To schedule a drop off at the hospital you will need to first email Jennilin Alcain at Jennilin.X.Alcain@kp.org with
(1) description of item(s) to be donated, (2) quantity per item, (3) approximate value, (4) dimension of boxes and quantity, (5) name, title, and address to send the receipt, (6) requested date and time to drop off. If you have questions call Alcain at 808-442-5191.
Medical personnel are not the only ones looking for PPE protection. Maui Police Department indicated they are also in need of N95 masks, and are also accepting hand-sewn masks for kupuna. To donate, call their community relations line at 808-244-6391 to schedule a drop off at the Wailuku station.
What if we cannot get enough N95 masks?
There is an industrious Maui group trying to solve this issue. The team includes Jennifer Oberg for manufacturing, Russell Van Dyken for engineering, and Maui physicians for consulting. They have quickly raised over $21,000 on a Go Fund Me over the last 48 hours for the expensive materials used. The rest of the work is done with volunteers.
“The fabric masks that people are making in their homes can be washed, but this mask cannot,” says Oberg. “So we are assembling them with our volunteer team in one location. Seabury Hall has opened up their facilities to us. It’s easier for us to maintain a more sterile environment that way. We have specific requirements for volunteers. Work stations are 6 feet apart, no more than 10 people to a work space, no one in their home can be showing signs of illness, they must wear PPE when working, hand-washing every hour. We will continue to add recommended sterile production requirements from our consulting doctors.”
If you want to volunteer contact their coordinator Julie MacMillan, at firstname.lastname@example.org. They need both people who can sew, and those who don’t, to cut materials, glue, and help keep things organized.
What if you just want to make masks at home?
There are a lot of mask tutorials out there. I like the round up at So-sew-easy.com/face-mask-sewing-patterns. There are masks of for all levels of skill. If you are a beginner sewist the tutorial at Freesewing.org/blog/facemask-frenzy has a video and does not require elastic, which is in limited supply on Maui. Using cotton material is recommended. Call local fabric stores before you go to check inventory.
If you want to make the mask pictured above this is my tutorial on how to do it https://mauitime.com/news/health/how-to-make-pleated-medical-masks-with-wire/
More Coronavirus Coverage from MauiTime: