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UHM researcher and Department of Theatre and Dance initiate effort to sew masks for health care workers

Date: March 26th, 2020 in Community Outreach, Giving, JABSOM News, UH Manoa    Print or PDF

Cloth Masks

Pictured: A finished cloth mask in front of a sewing pattern. Photo courtesy of Angel Yanagihara, PhD.

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) Associate Research Professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) and the Pacific Biosciences Research Center Angel Yanagihara, along with faculty, students and staff of the UHM Department of Theatre and Dance (T&D), are sewing homemade fabric masks to help with Hawaiʻi’s increasing shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers. On the T&D side, the effort is spearheaded by the head of the Costume Shop, Assistant Professor Maile Speetjens, and the Production Manager, Rick Greaver, with the support of the Chair Markus Wessendorf.

This effort is in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance that fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted. The masks will be pleated for better fit and made of 100 percent densely woven “breathable” cotton with pockets that can be inserted with a disposable near N95 non-woven filter material, Professor Yanagihara said. After use, the cloth masks may be treated with regular laundry soap then laundered and reused.

“Protection depends on the density of the fabrics used. Protection can be improved by the use of an N95 insert – these are non-woven material panels which we can insert,” Yanagihara said.

The first batch of cloth masks will be distributed through the University Health Partners of Hawaiʻi , the faculty practice plan of the UH medical school, with priority given to providers and staff in primary care and emergency care specialties, who provide first contact care for the majority of patients. Vicky Cayetano has offered complimentary cleaning of the masks prior to distribution through United Laundry Services, Inc.

In addition, JABSOM medical students are assembling face shields using foam boards, elastic bands and sheets of plastic as well as seeking PPE donations from community businesses and organizations who might have the equipment but are not open for business during the stay-at-home order.

With public contributions for materials, it is hoped that these masks and shields can be extended for the support of other primary care providers (including those assessing nursing home patients) across the state of Hawaiʻi .

Contributions to these efforts may be made here: uhfoundation.org/covidmasks

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