Utah coronavirus updates for Sunday, March 15: As state cases rise to 21, Summit County announces closure order

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is providing readers free access to critical local stories about the coronavirus during this time of heightened concern. See more coverage here.

We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates as frequently as possible, but first here’s a rundown on recent stories:

• Here are the stories of frustrated Utahns who sought a COVID-19 test and never got one.

Parents will not be able to drop off their children at Utah’s public schools this week. There won’t be adults present for child care duties as Gov. Gary Herbert originally said.

4:30 p.m.: Summit County closes restaurants, bars, gyms, churches, ‘businesses at which people tend to gather’

In a sweeping health order designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the Summit County Health Department on Sunday issued a 30-day shutdown of businesses where “people tend to gather.”

The order affects all “resorts, restaurants, taverns, bars, entertainment venues, fitness and exercise facilities, spas and churches.” Grocery stores will stay open.

Restaurants can continue operations on a limited basis through curbside take-out or drive-through service on a non-cash basis, the health department said in a news release. Cash transactions may be allowed if the restaurant follows stringent guidelines to separate money handling from food handling, and implements cleansing measures between each transaction, it added.

Restaurants have 48 hours from the effective time of the order to notify the Summit County Health Department whether or not they will implement curbside take-out service.

“The kinds of businesses and facilities identified represent those for which the risk of community transmission is higher due to groups of people gathering, the potential for contact with virus particles due to proximity, the exchange of cash and credit cards," Summit County Health Officer Rich Bullough said in the release.

“Given the recent case of community transmission arising from a local restaurant and bar establishment, it is prudent to enact these regulations.

"In addition, the nature of Summit County as a destination resort community raises the risk of transmission within Summit County from travelers coming here, as well as the risk that there may also be further transmission visitor to visitor that may contribute to infections outside of Summit County.”

— Kathy Stephenson

2:30 p.m.: Salt Lake City schools release plans for remote learning

The Salt Lake City School District on Sunday released its plan for transitioning all students to remote learning starting on Wednesday.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced a two-week “soft closure” of the state’s public K-12 schools on Friday. During the dismissal period, students will focus on maintaining their skills and reviewing concepts already taught at school, Superintendent Lexi Cunningham said in an online letter.

The district had surveyed families over the weekend about internet and computer access for students. It’s scheduling pick-up times on Wednesday for those who need to check out laptops. And families have been pre-approved for enrolling in Comcast’s “Internet Essentials,” which will provide two free months of Internet service.

For some classes and grades, teachers may also prepare packets or other resources for students to work on, Cunnigham said.

The district also released a schedule for families to pick up boxes of food and hygiene kits at Community Learning Centers starting Wednesday.

It will continue to provide breakfast and lunch for all children — ages 0-18, regardless of school enrollment — during the dismissal period, similar to its summer lunch program. The “grab and go” meals will be available every weekday, starting Tuesday, at various schools. Additional details are available on the district’s website.

— Sheila R. McCann

12:45 p.m.: Number of Utah resident cases now stands at 21, and one of the new cases is really an old one

On Sunday, the Utah Department of Health reported two new coronavirus cases, bringing the state total to 21. And two non-resident cases, bringing that number to 7.

An increasing number of cases is likely to be the norm as more people are tested for COVID-19, said department spokeswoman Jenny Johnson. “Cases will go up every day from here on out."

The cases appear to be in Davis County, bringing the total there to three. The non-resident cases have all been in Summit County, which has six, until now. A non-resident visiting Utah County also tested positive, according to the updated figures.

For the first time, the state figures include a case from St. George, but it isn’t a new one.

It is Mark Jorgensen, who had been treated at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray after contracting the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship with his wife Jerri.

“Now that we are seeing an increase in numbers, we made the decision to count him in our case total,” Johnson said. Since being released to his home in St. George, Jorgensen has been monitored by Utah health agencies.

A shortage of diagnostic tests has been a major setback as Utah tries to confront coronavirus — and a problem that has plagued responses nationwide. As of Friday, Utah’s state lab had the capacity to test 41 patients a day, said state epidemiologist Angela Dunn.

Private labs are expect to make more testing available in coming days, but the lag in diagnoses has many patients doubting state-reported numbers — and questioning the suggestion that the risk of infection had been relatively low in Utah because there was no confirmed “community spread” until Saturday, when the numbers jumped to 19.

One of those cases, involving a Summit County man, marked the first documented case where the source of the virus is unknown, what public health officials call community spread.

By the end of the night, Salt Lake County had 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19, all of them tied to travel or direct contact with a person who did travel. Eleven of those cases involve adults, and the other three are children.

— Kathy Stephenson

11:30 a.m.: Salt Palace added to the closure list.

Salt Lake County won’t be hosting any conventions or gun shows for the time being.

The county announced Sunday that it is closing down the Salt Palace Convention Center and the Mountain America Expo Center to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The county has already closed its senior centers, libraries, rec centers and golf courses. The county also closed Abravanel Hall, Capitol Theatre, Eccles Theater and the Rose Wagner Theater, as well as the Clark Planetarium and Discovery Gateway.

Here’s a full list of the closures.

10 a.m.: Salt Lake City pushes campaign to help neighbors

Are you worried about a neighbor but not sure how to help in this time of social distancing?

A downloadable form, available on the Salt Lake City mayor’s website, might be a good way to reach out and offer assistance. “If you are able to assist a neighbor who needs help during this time, use this form we’ve created to let them know all the ways in which you are able to help them.”

The form offers a check list of various ways you are willing to help — such as pick up medication, delivery food or watch children.

And, if you haven’t already, “make sure you have your neighbors’ contact information so you can call, text or email them,” this notice says. “Talk with them about emergency planning, whether anyone in the household has unique needs like essential prescriptions or medical care, and how you might be able to help one another should this situation escalate.”

More information is available at slc.gov/mayor/covid-19/

— Kathy Stephenson

9:30 a.m.: Summit County to order all restaurants to make food curbside pickup only

Summit County is expected to issue an order Sunday that stops all dining inside restaurants within the county.

On Saturday, Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough told KCPW radio that guests still will be able to call ahead and place orders for take-out and curbside delivery. But payment must be taken over the phone. No cash or credit card exchange will be allowed.

Third party delivery services — such as UberEats and Door Dash — also will not be allowed.

“We are not going to allow indoor dining where people gather,” he said. "This enforcement will apply to restaurants in general, but also restaurants and hotels, and obviously it’s going to apply to bars as well.”

He said the order would be in effect by 5 p.m. on Sunday.

— Kathy Stephenson

8:45 a.m.: Most resorts close, but not Powder Mountain

Ski Utah has a running tally of Utah resorts that are closing, at least temporarily. The list includes Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton, Park City Mountain, Deer Valley, Woodward Park City and Eagle Point.

Powder Mountain, in Eden, is taking a different approach.

It has limited lift sales to 1,000 each day. It is closing some areas where it is hard to not pack people in, and food and beverages will be largely limited to prepackaged items.

The resort’s announcement says: “We are fortunate at Powder Mountain that most of our resort activities involve outdoor recreation and that our mountain is uniquely uncrowded, due to the fact that we limit pass/ticket sales (and thus visitation) on our vast acreage, compared to other ski resorts.”

Snowbasin was open on Sunday. But the resort said later in the day that Sun Valley and Snowbasin have decided to close for the remainder of the 2019-20 winter season.

Alterra Mountain Company announced Saturday it would close its 15 North American resorts — including Deer Valley Mountain Resort in Park City — starting Sunday and until further notice. On Sunday, it said it will suspend operation of its ski resorts.

— Matt Canham