SALT LAKE CITY — State officials announced "a mask for every Utahn" project on Tuesday that he says is a step toward a “temporary new normal” as the state prepares for a soft reopening starting Friday.
As part of the project, the Utah Manufacturers Association, along with Cotopaxi and 20 other manufacturers, will work produce 2 million masks to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and potentially make it possible for the state to continue to open businesses.
The project is funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. The Utah companies are participating at cost.
Masks can be requested, free of charge, at coronavirus.utah.gov/mask. There will be one order allowed per household with a maximum of six masks per order.
Due to heavy traffic, the website loaded inconsistently throughout Tuesday.
Priority for masks will be given to essential employees returning to work and vulnerable populations, such as those who are over 65 years of age.
“Residents shouldn’t take or request a mask if they already have access to one and should not collect multiple masks for multiple use,” Cox said.
According to Cox, the project will help save 200 jobs in Utah, many of which are in rural communities.
Once the 2 million masks have been passed out, the project will cease. Cox said the state does not have the funds to support the effort on a continual basis.
Cox stated that it could take up to three weeks for orders to be fulfilled. The state does have masks ready to be shipped now and those could be received in one to two weeks. Employees of critical businesses can request to be designated for first-batch delivery. Cox said the focus will be on underserved communities and asked for businesses — nonprofits and grocery stores, specifically — to help pass out those masks.
“We want to do everything we can as we work together as a state to combat COVID-19,” Gov. Herbert said in a statement. “Wearing a mask when we are out in public may not be convenient, but it can help slow the spread of the virus. Let’s all do our part in stopping the spread and helping to protect those around us.”
Most of the 2 million masks will be made of generic fabrics — not medical-grade material. While N95 masks are designed to protect the wearer from others, generic masks, like the ones the state will be producing and urging citizens to wear, help protect others from the wearer.
“If everyone is wearing a mask — a cloth mask, a bandana, etc. — the purpose changes to protect others,” Cox said.
Cox pointed to countries like Taiwan, Japan and the Czech Republic, among others, that have used widespread mask wear to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“If we are all wearing masks, we know the measure of spread will go down significantly,” he said.
The hope is with the stopping of the spread, the state can continue forward in the process of opening the economy. Starting Friday, Utah will transition from a state of high risk for COVID-19 to a state of moderate risk with fewer restrictions, Herbert announced Tuesday.
“We are moving from one phase to another,” Cox said. “We want to continue to move forward from the orange phase to the yellow phase. If we all do our part and wear these masks in public, there’s a real possibility we can get there sooner rather than later.”