SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Teachers and students returning to school in the fall will have one less thing to worry about. The Dreamlifter, a largo cargo freighter converted from a Boeing 747-400, delivered 500,000 masks earmarked for them Wednesday morning.
Governor Gary Herbert greeted the plane at the Salt Lake City International Airport with officials from Utah’s Office of Economic Development, Boeing, UPS, and the State Board of Education.
“I think it’s hard to overstate this. More and more people are coming to the realization that the single easiest, most effective thing we can do to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 is to wear masks, like all of you are doing,” said Governor Herbert as he addressed media in a press conference.
The governor said this delivery is all part of the state’s “A Mask for Every Utahn” initiative. He said so far, the state has received more than 272,000 orders for masks and delivered more than 1.1 million masks to fulfill these orders.
Additionally, 70,000 masks have been directed to non-profit organizations that serve vulnerable populations, such as long-term care centers.
The masks, which came from different parts of the world, are supplies for this fall when students and teachers go back to the classrooms this fall.
“We want these students to be able to go back to school in the fall. It’s key. It’s so important for their academic well-being, their mental health, and their growth overall. We want them to be able to do so in a safe and healthy manner,” said Sydnee Dickson, Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Dickson said all school districts and charter schools will have to submit plans by August 1st. The plans will include what administrators will do to minimize the risk of COVID-19 once teachers and students return to the classroom. Currently, there are approximately 670,000 students in the public education system.
“The masks that the students get are actually the ones that I’m wearing today. They’re incredibly comfortable. The smaller, younger students will also get a chance to get a mask that fits their face just a little bit more, a little bit more effectively,” said Ben Hart, Deputy Director for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Hart said the CARES Act provided all of the funding for these masks. Boeing performed the delivery free of charge and UPS lended out their air terminal for the landing.
Governor Herbert mentioned that the adjustments needed to fight the pandemic and keep the economy going were like “threading a needle.” He added Utah’s mortality rate for COVID-19 is at one percent, which is the lowest in the nation and Utah’s unemployment rate is at 8.5 percent, which is reportedly the second lowest in the country.
You can watch everything the governor said in the above video.