Salt Lake City—During May 2020, all of Utah’s institutions of higher education came together to support ProjectProtect, a grass-roots initiative to address the national shortage of personal protective equipment. Through these efforts, the initiative reached its goal to produce five million medical-grade masks to protect frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fifty thousand volunteer sewers from across Utah and Idaho, the University of Utah Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Latter-day Saint Charities and several Utah nonprofits helped to meet the goal over the five-week period.
Of the five million masks sewn, 300,000 masks were donated to the State of Utah for public use and 200,000 masks were donated to Latter-day Saint Charities for use for vulnerable populations.
“We are deeply grateful to our higher education institutions, community organizations and the many other volunteers who helped to produce five million masks which will help protect our frontline medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dave R. Woolstenhulme, Interim Commissioner of Higher Education. “Our institutions saw a need and stepped up to assist. I want our frontline health care workers to know that we are here for them and we thank them.”
Universities, colleges and technical colleges in Utah rallied together to take the project across the finish line through the “Sew Your True Colors” campaign. Higher Education leaders asked their campus communities to sew masks using thread in the color of their institution so that frontline caregivers will know that Utah’s higher education community supports them when they use the masks.
The kits contained all of the materials needed for 100 masks except for the thread. Sewing volunteers were encouraged, but not required, to use their school color and sew the school spirit into the mask.
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.
The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) is governed by the Board of Regents and is comprised of Utah’s eight public colleges and universities. The CEO of USHE is the Commissioner of Higher Education. For more information, visit ushe.edu.