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Doctors plead with Utahns to wear masks, launch #MaskUpUtah campaign

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s a message that doctors say we need to be pounded into our heads; put on your masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Several different health care organizations are teaming together for a new public awareness campaign that urges people to wear them, #MaskUpUtah. 

On Tuesday, the Utah Department of Health announced an additional 394 cases of coronavirus across the state and three more people had died.  So far, more than 18,000 people have tested positive for the disease, and 163 have lost their lives. 

Even though Utah is near the bottom when it comes to mortality rates, the rising number of daily case updates have doctors extremely worried about their ability to keep up with the disease.

Doctor Eddie Stenehjem with Intermountain Healthcare says if current trends continue, ICUs may run out of room.  Additionally, people aren’t social distancing like they once were.

He says, “The number of close contacts that each COVID-19 case has increased from five to 20.”

That’s why he and doctors from several different agencies are teaming up for the #MaskUpUtah campaign.  Over the next several weeks, people can expect to see billboards, public service announcements, and social media posts calling on people to wear them. 

Doctor Michael Baumann with MountainStar Healthcare says the data about masks might not be complete, but, they’re certain it slows the spread.

He says, “In the British Medical Journal, in 2003 there was a great article and it was all about, and I want you to listen closely, ‘Do we need to do a study about wearing parachutes when we jump out of airplanes?’”

Campaign backers agree that wearing the masks is uncomfortable, but it’s something everyone ought to be doing.  Doctor Michael Good with the University of Utah Health compares it to wearing a seatbelt while driving, adding that the mask might not prevent you from getting it, but it could prevent you from spreading it to others. 

He says the virus is proving to be an extremely tough one, and it’s spreading far too quickly.

“Coronavirus can move fairly easily from my mouth and nose to your mouth and nose.  It only takes a cough or a sneeze, and from there it moves to your throat,” Good says.

#MaskUpUtah was launched shortly after a memo from State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn was released to the public, saying Utah needs immediate course correction to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.  She states that if Utah doesn’t lower its number of new cases to 200 per day, she’ll recommend the state go back to the moderate or “orange” risk level.