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'Hang tight and stay tuned': Utah medical centers not accepting homemade cloth masks

By Merritt Jones, KSL | Posted - Mar. 25, 2020 at 7:11 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — In response to a call from Gov. Gary Herbert to preserve personal protective equipment, such as medical masks, amid the spread of COVID-19, many Utahns made homemade cloth masks for donation to local hospitals and clinics.

But in a news release Wednesday, Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health officials explained that they cannot accept these donations for use at this time.

"(We) appreciate the generosity of so many people in the community who are looking for ways to support the COVID-19 response," medical officials said. "Unfortunately, homemade cloth masks do not provide the appropriate level of antimicrobial protection for caregivers in close contact with patients with COVID-19."

The Davis County Health Department shared something similar. "We sincerely appreciate the willingness of community members to help our healthcare workers, but at this time, we do not need homemade masks," a press release from the health department says.

Combined with social distancing, homemade cloth masks can slow the spread of COVID-19 in communities but do not provide enough protection for frontline caregivers. These masks won't necessarily go to waste though. As shared in a press release, more information on the use of homemade masks will be forthcoming.

"Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health are working with several charitable organizations to develop a process for the community to assist in producing medical-grade masks," according to a news release.

Once developed, they will invite communities to help with medical-grade mask production.

"So hang tight and stay tuned," the release said.

Intermountain Health and University of Utah Health ask community members not to call COVID-19 hotlines regarding donations. Since they are also not accepting any other drop-off donations, they encourage Utans to hold onto toys, blankets, food and other physical items for a later donation. This will continue to help prevent the spread of the disease in Utah.

Residents and businesses can donate unused medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE), though. Surgical-grade gowns, gloves, face shields, surgical masks and N95 masks are all needed, Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn explained in a press conference Wednesday.

"We’re also asking all health professionals and allied health professionals to stop nonessential use of (personal protective equipment) so we do have a supply for health care workers in the event we get a surge of patients for COVID-19 here in Utah," she said.

For more information on donating or for more ways to help medical professionals, go to coronavirus.utah.gov/help.

"We encourage all Utahns to continue being vigilant in terms of staying in small groups, staying home — especially if you’re vulnerable — and only leaving the house for critical services," Dunn said.

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