Utah higher education leaders unite to benefit healthcare workers

All of Utah’s institutions of higher education are coming together to support ProjectProtect, a grass-roots initiative that has a goal to produce 5 million medical-grade masks to address the national shortage of personal protective equipment.

The collaborative effort between University of Utah Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Latter-day Saint Charities, several Utah nonprofits, and tens of thousands of volunteer sewers across the state has already produced over 3 million masks to protect frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, universities, colleges and technical colleges are rallying together to take the project across the finish line. They are launching a “Sew Your True Colors” campaign, asking their campus communities to sew masks using thread in the color of their institution. When frontline caregivers use these masks, they will know that Utah’s higher education community supports them.

“Trailblazer Nation has always been a great place to live, and our community’s response of coming together and supporting one another in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has proven truly how strong, caring and resilient the residents of Southern Utah are,” Richard B. Williams, president of Dixie State University, said. “Using red thread to sew face masks for the front-line workers who are sacrificing so much to keep our entire community safe is not only a helpful way to give back but also a great opportunity to show off our Trailblazer pride throughout the entire community.”

Volunteers can sign up starting today at ProjectProtect.health. In Southern Utah, kits are available to pick up from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 19 at Dixie Regional Medical Center, 544 South 400 East. Masks should be returned on May 30 at the same location. The kits contain all of the materials needed except for the thread. Sewing volunteers are encouraged, but not required, to use their school color and sew the school spirit into the mask.

Volunteers will need a sewing machine, thread, scissors and pins, but they do not need a high level of sewing skills to produce these masks. Detailed instructions will be provided. Each kit will include 100 masks and, depending on the sewer’s level of experience, each mask should take five to 10 minutes to sew, for a total of 10 to 15 hours of sewing time over 11 days. Many volunteers have engaged their entire family to pin, cut and sew. Others have divided the 100 masks between neighbors, families and friends.

“I am overjoyed to see all higher education institutions in Utah coming together to support our medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, including some of our very own alumni, in this time of great need,” said Harris H. Simmons, Chair of the USHE Board of Regents. “By working together, we can reach the goal of producing 5 million medical-grade pieces of PPE through this meaningful effort."