Hawaii provides $10M in grants to make protective equipment

HONOLULU — The state of Hawaii plans to provide $10 million in grants for small businesses to manufacture personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

Democratic Lt. Gov Josh Green supports the grant program and said there is a lasting need for the health safety equipment, which will be significant in the fall and winter seasons, Hawaii News Now reported Saturday.

“We still have a lot patients, right now it’s 185 patients in the hospital today and that means you burn through a lot of PPE,” said Green, who is a physician. “Also, as we continue to test, we’re going to need PPE.”

The grants will be funded using federal coronavirus recovery funds and administered by the Hawaii Technology Development Corporation and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Len Higashi, acting executive director of the technology development corporation, said the program is an effort to keep Hawaii safe and provide jobs.

“We’re very grateful to be doing this and any opportunity that we can to put our people to work and make something that our community needs is a win-win situation,” Higashi said.

Kamanu Composites was one of the first three businesses awarded a grant. Co-founder Keizo Gates said the Oahu company began making face shields in March with supplies normally used to build canoes.

The $500,000 grant will help the company increase production from its output of about 1,000 face shields daily, Gates said.

“We’ve gotten to the point of using our own equipment that we’ve had for canoe building to do a thousand a day, but the needs are seemingly in the tens of thousands a day,” Gates said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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