After receiving his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, former Lawrence Woodmere Academy English teacher Brian Carufe was inspired to create a product that would make it easier to identify who has been inoculated.
Carufe and his business partner, Peter Burns, founded Covid Covered in late January. They produce bright green wristbands sporting those two words, to signify that wearers have been fully vaccinated, currently sold in packs of three. “The point of it is for them to be seen and noticed,” Carufe said. “We figured green, since it’s the color of life and renewal.”
A downtown Manhattan resident, Carufe became eligible for the vaccine as a teacher in January. “When I got my first dose of the vaccine in January, they were handing out these congratulatory buttons, and I couldn’t help but think how temporary a button is,” he recalled. “In reality, I thought what we needed was something that someone can wear every day. They can also use it to show pride in their vaccination decision.”
Carufe wants the wristbands to give people a sense of comfort as Covid-19 restrictions become less onerous. “We have basically become conditioned to be terrified of seeing someone’s nostrils,” he said. “With things such as indoor dining increasing, there’s this healthy fear that we need to be slowly phased out of. Seeing this wristband on someone’s arm next to you in a restaurant or on a plane is going to make you feel much safer.”
According to Carufe, a large portion of the proceeds from the sales of the wristbands will be donated to the No Kid Hungry Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that donates food, books, games and educational materials to students who have been adversely affected by the pandemic. “There are so many ramifications from this pandemic that I feel we’re just starting to wrap our heads around,” he said. “Helping out an organization that is close to my heart is the least we can do.”
LWA English teacher Laura Maffei, who has known Carufe for two years, said that he is a problem solver. “Brian is innovative, positive, and always coming up with solutions, just as he is doing with this initiative,” Maffei said. “My initial thought when he told me about his initiative was that it’s just like Brian to look for a solution to help all of us.”
Burns, an Air Force captain, said that he and Carufe have known each other since 2015, and that he hoped Covid Covered would help public spaces return to normal. “At some point, the masks will come off and the theaters, museums, restaurants and bars will be full,” Burns said. “All of this will come with some anxiety, and there’s no telling how long the transition will take. If vaccine visibility by way of a green wristband puts others at ease and encourages vaccination, the transition will be easier and ‘normal’ will come faster, which is all we really want.”
The feedback Carufe and Burns have received has been mainly positive, they said. “Now at this point, with roughly half the United States adult population having received at least one dose, everybody knows at least one person who has gotten the shot,” Carufe said. “More people have been ordering the wristbands. A couple of doctors’ offices have bought it for their entire team.”
Burns added that they are hoping that as more people become fully vaccinated, more Covid Covered bands are seen in public. “We’re looking now for feedback from society at large, especially now that the vaccine eligibility requirements are so broad,” Burns said. “I’m eager to see some on wrists at local bars and restaurants. I think that would be a great indicator of the level of adoption for the movement.”
The wristbands can be purchased online at https://bit.ly/3aCzyYo.