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Project calls for five million masks, largest volunteer effort since ’02 Olympics

Sister Jean B. Bingham. Relief Society General President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announcing details on the "Protect Project" (Screenshot from live COVID-19 Utah press conference)

SALT LAKE CITY — The largest Utah-based volunteer effort since the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. That’s what officials with Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health and Latter-day Charities are saying about the latest grassroots movement to help fight against COVID-19 coronavirus.

Project Protect

Officials with all three organizations are announcing the immediate launch of “ProjectProtect.” The goal is to produce an enormous amount of medical-grade face masks, face shields and isolation gowns. They hope to be distributing the equipment to frontline health workers at the two Salt Lake City-based health systems as soon as possible.

Dan Liljenquist is the senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Intermountain Healthcare. He says the number of face masks they are hoping to produce is staggering.

“Our goal, with specifically this mask project, is to create five million medical grade masks and ask our community to help us sew these masks,” he explains.

The first step in the process of creating such a lofty goal was acquiring the necessary resources.

“We’ve acquired material, medical grade material,” says Liljenquist. “[It’s] a polypropylene mesh, which provides excellent filtration.”

Historic volunteer effort

To have any chance of producing that many masks, officials know they need a lot of helping hands.

“We’re asking for about 10,000 volunteers a week for the next five weeks to help us with this project,” he says.

And if that number seems high… you’re right.

This is the largest ask for volunteers in our community since the 2002 Olympics.

Volunteers are asked to do a number of things. First, they need to follow detailed instructions and have access to a sewing machine.

The goal is for each volunteer to make 100 masks. Depending on skill level, one mask should take anywhere from five to ten minutes to sew. Material and instructions will be provided.

In addition to the three organizations, some prominent Utahns are jumping on board. Utah native and PGA Tour winner Tony Finau says he supports the initiative.

“We are proud to be a part of this, but more so, to help those on the front lines of the crisis who are the true heroes,” says Finau. “I invite all Utahns to help support this important community initiative.”

More information about the initiative and an opportunity to sign-up is found at projectprotect.health.