A sewing circle at UH Hilo: Campus ‘ohana undertakes mask-making project

The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, and the UH Hilo community is pitching in to sew masks.

Two women at sewing machines, both wearing masks. In the back of the room is another woman cutting fabric.
Sewing masks at UH Hilo, April 15, 2020. The UH Hilo mask-making project, now in its second week, is arranged in two locations so that no more than 10 people are gathered at any one time. Photo from University Relations/UH Hilo.

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo ‘ohana has launched a mask-making project in response to recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control regarding the use of cloth face coverings to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

“We are launching a special project to make cloth face coverings (masks) here on campus,” writes Farrah-Marie Gomes, vice chancellor for student affairs, in an email to the university community on April 14.

The vice chancellor put out the call for people able to sew and people willing to assist with cutting and preparing the masks for sewing.

The sewing gatherings, now in their second week, are being arranged in two locations so that no more than 10 people are gathered at any one time. Gomes estimates there will be just over 1,000 masks completed this week.

Completed masks in colorful fabrics.
Faculty, staff, and students who assist with this project are each able to keep two masks for themselves or provide them to someone in need. The other masks will be distributed to students who have not yet been able to obtain masks. Photo courtesy Division of Student Affairs.

“We will be practicing social distancing and everyone will be advised to wash the masks before wearing them,” explains Gomes. “We are taking extreme care in balancing the health and safety of our participants while we work to meet the needs of those in our campus community who are in need of additional support at this time.”

Students were also invited to join in.

Faculty, staff, and students who assist with this project are each able to keep two masks for themselves or provide them to someone in need. The other masks will be distributed to students who have not yet been able to obtain masks.

“We plan to mail most of the masks since many of our students are no longer on campus or in the immediate Hilo area,” notes Gomes.

For those unable to join in the project, the CDC document Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 has information about making cloth face coverings at home.

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