An Ontario family that created a Hug Glove so they could hug their grandma amid the COVID-19 pandemic have partnered with a Canadian manufacturer to bring the product to others in need of an embrace.
Guelph, Ont. residents Carolyn Ellis and her husband Andrew created the Hug Glove last May by hanging a thick plastic sheet with sleeves from a clothesline so the family could hug Ellis' mother without coming into direct contact with her.
In a video posted to Facebook on May 10, 2020, the family can be seen taking turns using the device to hug Ellis' mom. At the time, it had been nearly two months since they last embraced.
Ellis told CTVNews.ca on Friday that video gained mainstream attention and she had people reaching out to her from across the world wondering how they could get their own Hug Glove.
"That's my reason for doing this because I know that feeling of hugging my mom for the first time in so long," Ellis said in a telephone interview Friday.
"It's going to be a while until we return to our normal lives, even with people being vaccinated, so there’s a need for this," she added.
The original Hug Glove was made out of Vapour Barrier plastic and industrial Tuck Tape. Ellis said they've since made some improvements to the product's design.
Ellis said the top half of the glove is Low Density Polyethylene plastic sheeting, and the bottom is made out of the material used in medical isolation gowns. She said the medical isolation gown material provides more of a comfortable "hug feel."
The materials are held together by Velcro and the product fastens to a door frame. Ellis said the fabric can be easily washed and the plastic can be wiped down between each use.
"We wanted it to be reusable. We didn't want to have any waste to the landfill, so that was a big part of the design, as well as being made in Canada," Ellis said.
The sleeves of the Hug Glove are also lower than the original prototype so that seniors, people with disabilities and children can better use it.
"I envision it being something that people can use for a longer visit and just sit there and hold hands through the enclosed sleeves," Ellis explained.
With the goal of getting her product to as many people as possible, Ellis has partnered with Kitchener-based isolation gown manufacturer Barbarian Medical to mass produce the product.
Ellis said Barbarian Medical is currently manufacturing the Hug Glove with the product scheduled to be available for sale in approximately two weeks.
"I feel like this could be a product to be in health care systems, perhaps not just for COVID times but to really recognize that hugs impact physical health and mental health, and that it should be part of treatment and recovery for people," Ellis said.
Ellis hopes the Hug Glove could be used in nursing homes during flu season and provide the opportunity for residents to embrace their loved ones. She also envisions it being used in hospital isolation wards and children's hospitals in the future.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been taxing on the mental health of many, Ellis said the Hug Glove can provide that human contact most people have been missing.
"Obviously everyone's just been through so much, and a hug can have such a positive impact on the mental health and the mood and feelings of people, especially people who've been really isolated," Ellis said.
Ellis said she expects to start shipping the product in Canada by the end of the month, with plans for international sales in the future. The Hug Glove will cost $159, plus shipping and taxes.
Those looking to get their own Hug Glove will be able to order one "soon," Ellis says, and can sign up online to be notified when they become available.