Dozens of volunteers converged in conference rooms at the Neal Blaisdell Center to assemble personal protective equipment for Hawaii’s medical professionals and others on the front lines to aid in the battle to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“It was a great response from the community to make sure our health care professionals are protected while working,” said Laura Nevitt, director of community engagement and training at the Hawaii Children’s Action Network, who helped mobilize the assembly of personal protection equipment.
More than 100 volunteers assembled 4,000 face shields Thursday. The shields were purchased by the state Health Department.
“The face shields were ordered unassembled primarily out of expediency — almost every category of health care PPE is back-ordered,” said Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo. “Not just in Hawaii, but nationwide and even globally, supply chains are negatively impacted by the pandemic.”
Okubo said, “The unassembled face shields were available, and we snapped them up, knowing that they would be relatively easy to assemble and having faith that we could rapidly staff an assembly line.”
Up to eight people were designated in each conference room — one person per table at the Blaisdell Center’s Hawaii Suite conference rooms to comply with social distancing directives — as they attached self-adhesive foam strips and elastic bands to clear plastic face shields. All wore masks and gloves as they assembled the pieces.
The shields will be offered to essential workers in the state’s response to COVID-19 across the state.
Many of the volunteers came from a network of organizations and agencies that include Caring for Hawaii’s Neonates, Bricklayers Union, Young Democrats of Hawaii, Faith Action for Community Equity, Mililani High School, Hawaii Firefighters Association, Hawaii Medical Reserve Corps and Hawaii Medical Service Association.
The effort to round up volunteers began two weeks ago when Nevitt sought volunteers with community partners via Slack, an application that enables organizations and companies to send real-time messages to one another on a single channel.
An outpouring of responses instantly streamed in. “People were like, ‘Sign us up,’ ‘How many people do you need?’ They were just on it,” Nevitt said.
Adrian Tam, volunteer and candidate for the state House District 22 seat, said, “I wanted to do everything I can to help our first responders. I’m so glad our community is coming together to do this.”
Trish La Chica, volunteer and candidate for the state House District 36 seat, transported boxes of parts from the Blaisdell Center to the Mililani High School cafeteria, where she mobilized more than a dozen volunteers.
“There is a lot of aloha and love that is happening,” La Chica said.
The 4,000 face shields represent the first batch of 30,000 to be assembled. Organizers say they are expected to set up additional dates to assemble the remaining 26,000 pieces of personal protective equipment.
Anyone interested in volunteering can visit hawaii-can.org/faceshields.