The first batch of locally-produced protective masks, made by volunteers organised through the Cayman Islands Red Cross (CIRC), were collected recently.
Part of a larger consignment earmarked for use in the fight against COVID-19, some 350 fabric masks with filter pockets were delivered to frontline personnel on Friday (17 April 2020). The handover is part of a rapid response initiative, to provide 4,000 fabric masks for key staff including police and prison officers.
Started shortly before the Easter weekend, the project is being coordinated by the relief and disaster preparedness agency after an appeal by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee at a National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) meeting in late March. Dr Lee had asked that an agency come forward to set up homemade mask production to supplement current and ordered supplies of medical grade masks.
The Cayman Islands Government purchased the material to make the masks, and the kits were made by CIRC and distributed to more than 100 volunteers on Wednesday, 8 April. The Red Cross confirms that all items were professionally cleaned before sending to the volunteers. As well as organising the project, the CIRC shared a pattern with the would-be mask makers, along with instructions from Selma Silva of the Pink Ladies.
The Ministry of Health advises that masks should be washed on a high temperature setting using detergent after each shift. Additionally, hands should be cleaned with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser before putting on and taking off the face mask in order to prevent self-contamination.
“The use of masks is encouraged during public settings where social distancing may be difficult to maintain (e.g. supermarkets or pharmacies). However, masks are only a complementary measure and should not be a replacement for the core protective measures that are recommended to reduce community transmission of COVID-19 including physical distancing, staying home, respiratory etiquette, meticulous hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth,” says Dr Lee.
As the local branch of the international disaster response organisation, with years of experience in hurricane preparedness implementation, CIRC is strategically able to rapidly mobilise volunteers.
“We know that emergencies help to solidify a community's identity,” says CIRC Director Jondo Obi.
“Given the nature of the current health crisis, it has the potential to make people feel helpless given that the best way to assist is really by staying put. However, what this mask-making project has hopefully shown us all is that there are many ways in which people can still be involved and truly make a difference,” she adds.
“There is always a need for volunteers who have skills, time and a strong sense of commitment to our community. The Cayman Islands Red Cross is humbled by the outpouring of support for this project and the volunteers who answered the call and are giving their talents to support our frontline workers. Even while socially distant we remain together in this."
Posted in four languages on CIRC’s Facebook page just hours after Dr Lee’s appeal, the CIRC received hundreds of calls from volunteers who were willing to help.
“I am very grateful that the Cayman Islands Red Cross took up the appeal so quickly and is making good headway for this much-needed resource,” says the Minister of Health, Hon. Dwayne Seymour.
“It has an impressive track record of mobilising volunteers in times of national need. I must also thank CIRC and its resourceful volunteers on behalf of all our frontline workers, who will directly benefit from them providing some measure of protection during this outbreak,” he concludes.