face masks
Face masks created by students, faculty, staff and volunteers

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo ʻohana has launched a mask-making project in response to updated guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the use of cloth masks to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC recommends wearing face masks in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain like grocery stores and pharmacies.

According to UH Hilo Vice Chancellor Farrah-Marie Gomes, a majority of the masks will be distributed to students. “We plan to mail most of the masks since many of our students are no longer on campus or in the immediate Hilo area,” she said.

student ironing fabric
UH Hilo student irons fabric for masks

Gomes put out the call for volunteers that sew or are willing to assist with cutting and preparing masks.

The project is now in its second week and held in two locations so no more than 10 people are gathered at any time. Gomes estimates more than 1,000 masks will be completed this week alone.

“We will be practicing social distancing and everyone will be advised to wash the masks before wearing them,” Gomes explained. “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.“

Faculty, staff and students who assist with the project are able to keep two masks or provide to someone in need.

—By Susan Enright, UH Hilo Stories