Let’s make Personal Protection Equipment for Hawaii

Our main COVID-19 page – regularly updated

  • Please note: This webpage was created in April 2020 when PPE were in short supply and serves as a great testimony for human creativity and resilience in a crisis.

Is your facility looking for Personal Protection Equipment?

While this is a time of uncertainty, hospitals, hospices, and community health providers are preparing for shortages in Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

If you are an organization that is in need of PPE, we encourage you to sign on www.GetUsPPE.org as a “I need PPE” facility. This website is a national database created “by people in medicine on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Do you want to help by sewing masks or creating other materials for local agencies here in Hawai‘i? 

Kōkua Mau will be coordinating with our movement and our members to reach out to crafting communities, sewing circles, and any volunteers who want to support our Medical community right here in our islands. If you would like to help, like sew masks, contact us and we can help connect you with local agencies (or you can go onto getusppe.org.)

How to do this right?

Update April 5, 2020: A local scientist has researched all of the many options out there and narrowed it down the ‘Olson mask’, working with emergency medicine physicians.

The Olson’s built-in option or pocket to insert a variety of filter materials makes this mask very versatile in a variety of settings (and requirements). The design has further been improved by sewing in cloth straps, instead of using elastic straps, that make wearing the mask over a long time less irritating.

Olson mask made in Hawaii
Olson Mask – Made in Hawai‘i
Olson mask made for PPE in Hawaii
Olson Mask with cloth straps

To download the PDF file for the Olson Mask pattern click here.
For the additional cloth strap instructions click here.

Instructional step-by-step video for sewing the Olson mask (below). It also explains the importance and limitations for health care facilities in this 18-minute video. (The cloth straps are a later improvement and not included in the video.)

Please check back on this website. As soon as we find e.g. more or better materials, we will post it here.

Cotton fabric cloth masks alone provide protection for the general public, who want to comply with Mayor Kirk Caldwell recommendations (from April 2) for all O‘ahu residents to wear face masks when going outside to help fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The CDC’s Cloth Face Covers FAQ

Feedback from the team in Hawai‘i

Please note you can use cloth ties made from the same material instead of elastic, and those are actually more comfortable, especially when worn all day at work. You can use a pipe-cleaner or padded wire instead of the wired ribbon that they use in the video. This cloth mask is about 80% as good as a real surgical mask. It is comfortable.

We are currently using closely woven cotton, which is essentially like a cotton bed sheet. Washing is done in hot water with detergent, then in a dryer. Here is a link to the different materials that can be used:

The Mask recommended by Dr Streicher below is an alternative model and might prove more comfortable to wear for the general public. It also works well as an N95 respirator cover, which is consistent with the current CDC guidelines to extend the use of N95 respirators.

Dr. Streicher demonstrates how to sew a surgical mask. For detailed instructions and more information, go to: A Surgeon’s Guide to Sewing a Surgical Mask.

Dr. Lauren Streicher is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school, The Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.


Please visit alohamask, a community-driven effort by volunteers in the state of Hawai‘i at alohamask.org.

At alohamask you can request masks or volunteer to contribute (sew) masks. Their website is constantly updated, so please visit often for the latest techniques and recommended materials. Masks and materials are constantly tested and we learn new things every day.


Masks4HI are medical students and members of the community that want to do their part to protect Hawaii’s healthcare workers. Their mission is to ensure that our nurses, doctors, technicians, and other essential members of the healthcare team have the appropriate personal protective equipment. They keep us healthy—we keep them safe.

Additional websites:

Sewing Fabric Face Masks:

Note: These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by the Kokua Mau of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation, organization or individual. Kokua Mau bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.