Chris Czekaj slept next to a 3D printer for the first two weeks of April. It wasn’t because he was lonely in isolation, but rather because he had volunteered with Cape Cod Makers to create visors for face shields. Their printing is a nonstop yet slow job.
The Makers organized a two-step strategy to produce face shields. First, they asked volunteers who have 3D printers at home to create plastic visors, which they then attached to plastic panels to create full-face shields. The Cape Cod Medical Reserve Corps took on the logistics, picking up the visors from people’s homes and bringing them to makers for assembly.
By April 17, the Makers announced, they had met their production goal of 5,000 shields for Cape Cod Hospital.
Czekaj, who lives in Truro, is among at least 70 volunteers who are either printing, assembling, or conducting pickups and deliveries of 3D-printed face masks, according to Jim Sullivan, founder of Cape Cod Makers.
He borrowed the 3D printer from the Wellfleet Public Library to create the visors.
“The thing’s turned out to be quite a workhorse,” Czekaj said from his home, where it is currently set up.
The Makers created STL files (a file format for 3D printing) for volunteers to follow, and they donated the PLA plastic filament used to create the visors.
After uploading the files, the making is basically a waiting game. “You hit print and you wait three hours,” Czekaj said. One visor normally takes up to two hours to create, but Czekaj figured out a way to print two at once in three hours.
Czekaj was up every three hours to take his freshly printed products off the printer and get the next set ready. On April 14, he finished his 99th visor.
The experience meant not getting any sleep, but, Czekaj said, “I think everyone’s doing that.”
Other initiatives to provide face masks and respirators are underway on the Outer Cape. In Provincetown, Michael Goff, along with business partner Steven Latasa-Nicks, started the LGBTQ Corps, which has sourced, funded, and delivered a three-week supply of KN95 respirators and surgical masks for the town’s first responders and local nonprofit staff.
A second three-week supply was also secured and was on its way to Provincetown as of the Independent’s deadline. LGBTQ Corps calls itself “a group of gay guys with strong ties to Provincetown.”
By organizing, the Corps was able to secure masks through Masks for Life, a West Coast GoFundMe project that Goff knew was distributing masks purchased in China. In total they secured about 4,000 masks and respirators combined. Goff said they cost just under $2 for each respirator and less than 50 cents for each surgical mask. The LGBTQ Corps is continuing to raise money for procuring protective gear at givebutter.com/ppe4ptown.
Hand-sewn masks for everyday use are still being stitched in neighborhoods across the Outer Cape. Like many others, Chris Kosiavelon of Provincetown began sewing cloth masks to give to essential workers. But after posting photos of a few of his homemade masks on social media, requests came in from people looking for the masks we’re all supposed to wear when out and about.
“I have all this fabric — I might as well do something with it,” Kosiavelon, whose drag name is Bang, said. “It’s keeping me busy.”
In the last three weeks he has sewn hundreds of masks for Provincetown locals and others who live in Boston, New York, Seattle, New Hampshire, and California.
“I have a decent following on Facebook,” Kosiavelon said. The masks are vibrant in design and color and are free, though Kosiavelon is accepting donations to purchase more fabric.
His DIY mask-sewing video for people interested in making their own can be found at Chris Kosiavelon (Bang) on Facebook or bangthequeen on Instagram.
As for Czekaj and the rest of the Cape Cod Makers, they’re catching up on sleep and preparing their network of volunteers for another round to benefit other health-care workers like visiting nurses, dentists, and CNAs. Visit capecodmakers.org/covid for more information.