COVID-19, FEATURE — April 28, 2020 at 10:43 pm

Junior Rebecca Blanco-Bulhoes makes masks with her family for frontline workers

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Junior Rebecca Blanco-Bulhoes cuts the fabric for masks going to frontline workers.
Junior Rebecca Blanco-Bulhoes cuts the fabric for masks going to frontline workers. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Blanco-Bulhoes

With over a million COVID-19 cases in the United States, frontline workers are working every day to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Since these employees are essential to aiding those affected by COVID-19, some families are helping them by providing necessary items such as masks.

Rebecca Blanco-Bulhoes, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is making masks with her family. She works with Cupid Covid, a mask-making group initiated by Dr. Regina Marranzini, a geriatric care provider, who notified the group that frontline workers were not safe because of the shortage of personal protective equipment.

“I got into making these masks because my mom is really good friends with Regina and they were in need of more people cutting and sewing,” Blanco-Bulhoes said. “Now, I administer the Instagram.”

Cupid Covid originated in Parkland and has since expanded to other cities, including Aventura and Weston. It consists of 40 to 45 volunteers, who are mostly women, although some of them have their partners or children involved.

The group was named Cupid Covid because it emerged out of love and compassion towards everyone in these uncertain times. The mask-making mission began after Marranzini and her friends realized their shared desire to help those in need of facial protection. They are sewing masks, assembling surgical caps and making face shields for healthcare workers.

“I noticed car drivers [didn’t have] sufficient medical equipment to cover up. When this started happening, it really hit us because it’s very hard to work being afraid that you’re gonna catch something,” Marranzini said. “I reached out to my friends who are very talented and said, ‘Guys, you’re bored. We need you. Let’s start making masks, caps and face shields for the staff.’”

The organization assigns different roles within the group. For instance, DeEtta Jones, one of the volunteers, updates the website and oversees activities with their Whatsapp group chat. Others manage donations when they come in or maintain their social media presence, like Blanco-Bulhoes.

“[Rebecca is] wonderful. She’s not only helping to make masks and doing a lot of work with her mom, she is also coordinating a large group of people coming on as volunteers,” Jones said. “She’s helping coordinate communication and create spreadsheets. She plays a major leadership role in the group.”

Cupid Covid is fueled by donations and depends on others donating money through fundraising websites such as PayPal. After organizing the funds, someone then takes account of what inventory is needed to put together a list of needed materials. Next, those who are in charge of ordering the materials purchase them on Amazon or go to a store in person to get what they need and drop it off on the volunteers’ doorsteps for minimal contact.

“We want to make sure that people know that we are here and that all of us are in this together,” Jones said. “We’re all trying to survive through this, and we don’t want disproportionate weight to only be on health care workers.”

The masks are made out of poly cotton fabric. The process of assembling them starts with purchasing the materials, which is then given to the helpers who cut the masks such as Blanco-Bulhoes herself. Once the fabric is cut, the sewers sew the whole mask together and include a pocket in the center for a filter if needed. A wire on the bridge of the nose allows it to fit the face properly, and the two elastic bands on each side of the mask finish it off.

Blanco-Bulhoes outlines and cuts fabric for the Cupid Covid masks with her younger brother.
Blanco-Bulhoes outlines and cuts fabric for the Cupid Covid masks with her younger brother. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Blanco-Bulhoes

“Once they are done, all the masks go to Dr. Marranzini so she can distribute them to her coworkers and their friends who are also healthcare professionals,” Blanco-Bulhoes said.

While Cupid Covid as a whole has made over 1,000 masks and around 200 face shields, Blanco-Bulhoes and her younger brother personally have cut the fabric for hundreds of the masks. Her mother, Priscilla Bulhoes, has made over 250 masks. She says it takes approximately one hour to put together four masks.

“Through this project, my mom and I want to share that when a lot of people get together to help [each other], we become an army. It makes me realize that helping others is easier than we think,” Blanco-Bulhoes said.

The volunteer group emerged out of extensive research, kind donations and hard work. It has been ongoing for about six weeks and continues to grow.

“I’m very lucky that my friends donated all the materials and all the labor,” Marranzini said. “People are very tense during this time, they’re very grateful for the encouragement and support from the community.”

With the help of Cupid Covid, thousands of handmade masks have been distributed to frontline workers and healthcare professionals in need. More information about Cupid Covid can be found on their website or Instagram.

Ivy Lam

Ivy Lam is a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She is one of the marketing managers of the Genius Bar, a member of DECA and a percussionist in the Eagle Regiment band.

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