The state’s “A Mask for Every Utahn” initiative has delivered enough free face coverings to supply about a third of its population.
Under the program, the government provides masks to any group or person who completes a simple online order form.
Ben Hart, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said Utahns ordered more than 800,000 masks during the first week of the initiative in late April, which did cause a delay in delivery time.
Since then, however, the program has supplied more than 1 million masks.
The program partnered with the Utah Manufacturers Association and contracted with H.M. Cole and Cotopaxi to produce the face coverings.
Due to demand, manufacturers had to hire 300 more people. Besides the masks for individuals, the effort supplied more than 70,000 coverings to 107 organizations across Utah.
“We are very, very proud of this, and you think this program wasn’t even in existence three months ago, and now we have gotten masks out to a third of the state,” Hart said. “And so, that is quite an accomplishment.”
Postal workers delivered the masks, many going to COVID-19 hot spots in Salt Lake County.
More than 100,000 masks, for instance, have been delivered to West Valley City residents. Those living in ZIP code 84096, covering the southwestern part of the Salt Lake Valley, have ordered about 24,159 masks.
The state reports that 3,438 masks were delivered to ZIP code 84101, which includes the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. In ZIP code 84104, which includes the Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods, west-siders ordered more than 10,000 face coverings.
In all, the initiative has supplied enough masks for about 40% of Salt Lake County’s residents.
St. George, another city that has seen rising COVID-19 cases, has ordered more than 25,000 face coverings, enough for nearly 30% of the population.
Other hot spots, such as San Juan County, have ordered 5,783 masks with one ZIP code ordering 51 and another ordering 2,918. That’s enough masks for about a third of the population. Though San Juan, in southeastern Utah, had 398 cases as of Monday, its case rate is nearly 2,500 cases for every 100,000 people, worse than any other Utah region.
In extreme northern Utah, Logan residents have ordered 16,685 masks, enough for about a third of its populace. In wider Cache County — where a coronavirus outbreak erupted at a Hyrum meatpacking plant — residents have received 31,323 masks through their 7,695 orders, enough for almost a quarter of the population.
The most masks, 24,655, have been delivered to ZIP code 84015 in Davis County, followed by ZIP code 84404 in Ogden, which has received 24,203 masks. Previously mentioned ZIP codes 84096, in the southwestern Salt Lake Valley, and 84120 and 84119, in West Valley City, ordered the third, fourth and fifth most masks, respectively.
Despite its successes, the state’s mask program has encountered some criticism from residents about the designs on the face coverings they have received. One, decorated like an American flag, featured an image of a gun and the phrase “DON’T TREAD ON ME.”
Hart said the initiative does not intend to send masks with political markings, but some had gone out by mistake. He said he apologizes to those parties and would like for those recipients to request replacement masks, which are supposed to be politically neutral.
“We want these masks to be safe,” he said, “and to allow everyone to feel comfortable wearing them.”
The “Mask for Every Utahn” program hopes to continue to provide face coverings for people — especially those in underserved areas, Hart said. Though the masks were not originally delivered as quickly as they anticipated, he said the program is past the initial surge and is delivering masks quickly to safeguard as many Utahns as possible.
“At the end of the conversation, the reason we’re doing all of this is because we want people to be safe,” he said. “We want to cut transmission of this horrible virus.”
To do that, medical experts say, people must do more than obtain masks. They must wear them.