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Hawaii & American Samoa embrace Aloha/ Poly print masks to fight virus

Source: AP and Samoa News staff

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Face masks made with the same colorful prints used for aloha shirts — known as “Hawaiian shirts” elsewhere in the United States — are the latest fashion trend in Hawaii as islanders try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Disposable surgical masks are in short supply, and people want to preserve what’s available for nurses and doctors working with COVID-19 patients.

Samoa News notes the same trend in American Samoa, with Samoa News going as far as publishing a DIY of the sewing pattern of a mask a couple of weeks ago. The territory uses colorful poly prints generally used for custom sewn shirts, puletasi,pillow cases, etc.

 Locally the masks are being sold for around $5, while stores like Manu’a’s have had the masks sewn using their colorful poly-print material, and offering them to customers to wear while shopping if they are without masks. (See yesterday’s issue of Samoa News front page photo.)

In Hawai’i, those who know how to sew are digging fabric scraps out of their closets or cutting up old aloha shirts to make masks at home. Local Hawai’i designers are offering some for sale online, but are struggling to keep up with a surge in demand as people scramble to adhere to new public health guidelines to cover their mouth and nose.

The aloha (poly) prints are serving as a cheerful expression of Hawaii as people persevere through the sometimes dreary days of staying indoors, avoiding other people and eschewing customary hugs and kisses.

It’s “another way of really showing the love and aloha spirit for each other,” said Candy Suiso, a high school teacher who wears masks made by her sister. “Especially in these times right now, when we can’t see our family, we can’t see our friends, we can’t see our co-workers.”

On Monday, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell declared fabric stores an essential business, allowing them to sell to an onslaught of people wanting to make their own masks.

In American Samoa, all stores are still open, however social distancing and limited business hours are enforced, including encouraging face masks to be worn while out in public. StarKist Samoa cannery has also made wearing a mask by its employees a company policy.

As of Tuesday, Hawaii reported 517 people had tested positive for the coronavirus and nine people had died.

In American Samoa, the territory continues to take strong preventive measures, and so far no one has tested positive, AND no one has died of the COVID-19 virus. It currently holds as the only US state or territory to have no cases.

American Samoa does have a ‘testing’ problem. While it recently received test kits and the equipment to do testing on island — its testing protocols, including training, have yet to be formally established and test samples will still have to be sent off-island for results, until such time testing is activated.