Leaders from three Utah community organizations on Saturday joined together at the Deseret Industries store in Murray, Utah, to mark a grassroots medical milestone and thank the more than 50,000 Utahns who helped create medical-grade masks for frontline caregivers treating COVID-19 patients.
The goal of the grassroots initiative, known as ProjectProtect, was to enlist thousands of sewing volunteers across the state to manufacture personal protective equipment for frontline caregivers, including more than five million medical-grade masks.
The project is the largest Utah-based volunteer effort since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Here are some of the statistics:
• 50,000 volunteers from Utah and Idaho participated in the initiative
• 5 million masks sewn
• 300,000 masks donated to the state of Utah for public use
• 200,000 masks donated to Latter-day Saint Charities for use for vulnerable populations
The goal of ProjectProtect to create five million medical-grade masks was expected to be reached on Saturday, when sewing volunteers will be returning their completed masks to Deseret Industries locations throughout the state.
Representatives and leaders from Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health, Latter-day Saint Charities, and several Utah nonprofits, which organized and launched ProjectProtect, were on hand at the Deseret Industries in Murray to thank those who turned in masks for their time and service, including a Utah woman who has sewn 2,225 masks. She’ll be turning in 1,000 masks tomorrow.
“There are many heroes during this pandemic, including our incredible caregivers,” said Dr. Marc Harrison, CEO and President of Intermountain Healthcare. “But everyone in the community who has participated in this project are also heroes, and through their actions, have helped to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect many of the most vulnerable people in our communities. We’re grateful for their service.”
ProjectProtect also helped to produce reusable isolation gowns and more than 50,000 face shields, which are already being deployed to frontline caregivers for use while caring for patients.
Latter-day Saint Charities has worked with healthcare experts to create educational content and instructions for sewing the masks, while the Relief Society organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tapped into its network of thousands of volunteers from around the world.
“Several months ago, I got a call from a University of Utah doctor asking if we might consider sewing medical masks to address a looming shortage in the hospitals,” said Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. “From that initial call, an important partnership was born. This team, from multiple organizations and a variety of professions, has moved mountains to make ProjectProtect possible. If such a feat is possible anywhere in the world, it’s here in Utah. We’re so happy to be a part of this community effort!”
“We’ve seen heart-wrenching stories of healthcare workers all over the world who are caring for COVID-19 patients without the protection they need and deserve,” said Tad Morley, vice president of outreach and network development at University of Utah Health. “We realized our regular supply chain couldn’t handle the demand and we didn’t want our frontline staff to face that same situation. So, we tapped into the resources that are based in the community to make sure they were protected.”
“ProjectProtect is an unprecedented community collaboration in response to a once-in-a-generation pandemic, and it represents the dedicated work of dozens of professionals and hundreds, soon to be thousands, of volunteers,” said Dan Liljenquist, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Intermountain Healthcare.
The ProjectProtect initiative will continue for another week. For details, go to https://projectprotect.health.
For pictures from event sites, go to https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1JCb-T1qZev7tkKOJg-bsnqSxr2Z3QC9-?usp=sharing