SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller is one of the 20,000 volunteers who sewed 2 million masks during the first two weeks of ProjectProtect, but volunteers are running short entering the third of the effort’s five weeks.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, ProjectProtect needed 2,783 more volunteers to register to sew 100 masks each.
Volunteers may register at ProjectProtect.health until 2 p.m. on Tuesday. That’s the close of business for the five locations where volunteers can pick up a kit with the material to make 100 masks.
The biggest need for volunteers centered around the Deseret Industries location in Riverton, where another 964 volunteers were needed. The other locations are Layton (605 more volunteers needed), Murray (562), Harrisville (366) and American Fork (286).
Miller said she has sewed or facilitated the sewing of 2,000 masks so far.
“It’s exciting for me to have a little bit of a hand in helping health care workers, because I’m in that critical age where I don’t want to go outside. I want to be very careful, so this gives me an opportunity to do service and feel useful,” said Miller, who is chairwoman of the board of trustees of Intermountain Healthcare, in a video posted on YouTube.
ProjectProtect is a joint effort by Intermountain, University of Utah Health and Latter-day Saint Charities.
The goal is to sew 5 million masks in five weeks.
Each week, organizers drop 10,000 kits into vehicles as they pull into the drive-thru areas of the Deseret Industries thrift store locations. That pickup happens on Tuesday. On Saturday, the volunteers return to the same locations with 100 completed masks.
Not all the masks have been returned on time. Some have come back the following Saturday, but the organizers said they have just over 2 million masks.
For example, Kelly Wayment, of Centerville, dropped off 663 completed masks on Saturday. She said 28 women in her congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints combined to sew the masks in 106 hours, according to her post on the official Facebook group page called Project Protect Utah.
Some seamsters and seamstresses say they have been able to complete 100 of the simple masks in a few hours. Others have said they needed 15-20 hours.
Intermountain and University of Utah Health have begun to distribute completed masks to their front-line health care workers.
“Thank you from the front line,” Deann Robinson, a nurse administrator at Intermountain Garfield Memorial Hospital in Panguitch wrote in a social media post. “Your service and sacrifice (are) making a difference.”
“This is huge, that staff know that they’re going to have enough masks to keep themselves and their patients safe,” said Colleen Connelly, senior nursing director for Clinical Care at University of Utah Health, in a news release.
“It keeps them feeling secure and so touched by the community that the community would stand behind us in this way,” she said.
“This personal protective equipment is important in protecting these health care workers from exposure to COVID-19,” Amanda Gold, an Intermountain social media marketing specialist, wrote in a Facebook post. “Our organizations have treated many of the state’s patients who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and expect to treat hundreds more in coming weeks.”
Intermountain and University of Utah Health will donate spare masks to the Utah Department of Health.