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New initiative by healthcare leaders pushes for Utahns to ‘mask up’

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jun 23, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Hospital Association announced a new statewide initiative, #MaskUpUtah, in an effort to encourage Utahns to wear face masks and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Intermountain Healthcare, MountainStar Healthcare, Steward Healthcare, and University of Utah Health have all joined forces in the initiative.

“The dramatic rise in case counts Utah is currently experiencing will hit hospitals approximately seven to 10 days later. Current trends show a doubling in hospitalizations each week if the transmission rate is not reduced,” a news release stated.

The number of COVID-19 patients at Intermountain Healthcare hospitals has doubled in the last month alone, Intermountain's Dr. Eddie Stenehjem said. While there is not a bed shortage now, Dr. Stenehjem warns that things could change.

“If we continue this trend and we do not abate the crisis that is going on now, we will reach capacity in the coming weeks and we will no longer be able to care appropriately for patients with COVID-19 and also those that seek care for other reasons,” he said.

People will begin to see #MaskUpUtah on billboards across the state, online and through TV and radio ads.

The increasing number of COVID-19 cases is alarming, but Utahns have flattened the curve in the past, Steward Healthcare Chief Medical OfficerDr. Arlen Jarrett said. The hope is people will wear masks, practice social distancing and proper hygiene.

“I am quite certain we can do this, and I am optimistic we can do this without those lockdown measures,” he said.

The #MaskUpUtah initiative will last through the summer months.

“Masking up is an important way everyone can help. Think of someone you love or care for; wear a mask for them. If we all wear our mask regularly when out in public or at work, we can bend the curve, protect our vulnerable loved ones and keep Utah’s healthcare resources readily available for all,” said Greg Bell, President and CEO of Utah Hospital Association.

The Utah Hospital Association offered up the following facts for Utahns:

While accurate information about COVID-19 continues to be clinically reviewed and verified, there are several facts clinicians agree on:

  • Many people who are actively spreading COVID-19 may have very mild or no symptoms. Because they feel well, they continue to engage with their communities and family and do not realize that they need to self-isolate. Wearing a mask while at work and in public settings will help curb community spread from individuals with minimal or no symptoms.
  • A lot of misinformation has been spreading recently about facial masking. However, clinicians agree that face coverings, when worn appropriately, block most infectious droplets originating from the individual wearing the face covering. Thus, blocking transmission into the community. To what level a face covering protects the individual from infectious droplets is dependent on the type of face covering the material is made from (e.g., surgical mask, cloth face covering). N95 masks used in medical and industrial settings provide the highest level of protection and are reserved for the healthcare setting.
  • Frequent washing of hands, keeping a distance of 6’ from others and wearing a mask are basic hygiene steps that should continue to be done to stop the spread of COVID-19. While not trendy, these steps continue to be effective.