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CDC: Cover Up!

Masks4Hi was started in March 2020 by two students, one in media, the other in med school. They've become a clearinghouse for receiving and distributing essential medical supplies.

Local companies were making cloth masks even before the CDC guidance to wear face masks last Friday. Now, however, they’re pretty much sold out. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports the healthcare sector still needs protective equipment of every kind, but there are options for the average person who needs a cloth mask.

Credit Masks4Hawaii
(top l-r, then below) Tate Higashihara, Troy Enoka, and Emma Whiteley in a recent Masks4Hi meeting to plan logistics.

Troy Enoka is one of the founders of Masks4Hi. Since March, they’ve helped direct medical grade masks and over a thousand cloth masks to the healthcare community.

“We’re actually still getting a lot of requests from long term care facilities, hospitals, and I just saw one from the police department.”

Stylish masks by Hawaii designers are long gone, but Don Quijote, for example had cloth masks — until last Friday. Masks are “available” online, though many outlets caution there is a 1-6 week waiting period. 

“There are really many options, whether it’s professionally made or a makeshift t-shirt mask. The whole goal is to protect others in the community,” says Tate Higashihara, Masks4Hi co-founder. He is a UH  med school student, like many in that organization. He points out the Masks4Hawaii facebook group includes many local makers offering tips.

Masks4Hawaii is a Facebook group led by Wendy Iwasaki, Amy Jampel, Alyson Kusatsu, and Jennifer Murphy. They formed March 22, 2020 with the aim of linking sewists (mask makers) with health care professionals, first responders, and other essential workers needing masks. They now have 908 members and have helped get more than 1200 cloth face masks to their target group. 


After hours on the job, healthcare workers’s ears are sore—makers have found a simple button extender to help with that. Mask makers are welcome at masks4hi@gmail.com . At Aloha Mask you can find a pattern and they'll connect what you make with a worthy recipient  

There are other makers and facilitators busy at work all across the state, and yet the need is great. The average person needs a couple at least, so one can be worn while the other is being cleaned.

Locations like Aloha Funwear, Island Fabrics, Island Slipper, Jams World, Ari South, Kini Zamora, Kaikini Bikini, Kailua Masks and many more have had stock at one time or another and may again. 

Pop-up mask sales are happening out of restaurants and various establishments that are still open. Check social media for the latest offerings. Retail stores stock occasional shipments that sell out quickly. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public settings. They’ve posted a video of the Surgeon General making a face mask out of a t-shirt and rubber bands—it takes less than 45 seconds.

CDC No-sew option https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-homemade-mask-material-DIY-face-mask-ppe.amp.html

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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