Latter-day Saint Charities, Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health launched an initiative on April 17 to provide face masks for frontline health staff in the state of Utah.
The initiative, called ProjectProtect, will produce face shields, medical-grade masks and reusable isolation gowns to “provide our dedicated health care workers with the protection they deserve,” according to the ProjectProtect website.
Dan Liljenquist, Intermountain Healthcare senior vice president and chief strategy officer, said the goal of the initiative is to provide 5 million medical-grade masks while asking the community to help.
“This is the largest ask for volunteers in our community since the 2002 Olympics,” Liljenquist said.
Latter-day Saint Charities Director Sharon Eubank said she’s very happy to be a part of the partnership.
“It’s a unique solution to a problem that has probably never been seen,” Eubank said.
Eubank said everyone wanting to volunteer needs to register on the ProjectProtect website. Once someone has registered, they will be directed to drive to a certain location, likely a Deseret Industries somewhere in the Wasatch Front, and pick up their kit.
The kits include special materials for protective masks, as well as instructions on how to assemble the masks.
“Here’s something very critical and very productive that each of us can do,” Eubank said.
Jeremy J. Biggs, medical director for the University of Utah occupational medicine clinics, said that personal protective equipment (PPE) is what enables health care workers around the country to care for COVID-19 patients in a safe manner.
“We normally use about 2,800 masks in a day, and now we’re using closer to 6,000 masks and that number will likely double or more when we hit this surge that we’re anticipating,” Biggs said.
Biggs described ProjectProtect as hope to a seemingly impossible situation.”ProjectProtect will literally put a life-saving barrier between us and COVID-19,” he said.
PGA Tour player Tony Finau from Salt Lake City, Utah said when this situation first started happening, the Tony Finau organization wanted to get involved in some way.
“We learned pretty quickly that we needed to help those on the front lines and the medical staff, the health specialists,” Fianu said. “I heard about this ProjectProtect initiative and I knew our foundation, we wanted to go all in.”
Finau said he feels that it’s of the utmost importance right now for the community to come together and take care of health care workers, who he describes as “true heroes.”
“Those on the front lines are saving lives every single day, and I think we owe it to them as a community to do our part now,” Finau said.
According to the ProjectProtect website, there have been 300 volunteers, 800 kits picked up and 30,000 masks made.