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.
It’s Monday, March 16. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.
8:20 p.m.: Zion and Capitol Reef stay open, but scale back
Starting Tuesday, the shuttle buses serving Zion National Park will “temporarily” suspend operations, although Utah’s busiest park will remain open to the public. Visitors will be allowed to drive up Zion Canyon, something that hasn’t happened during the spring high season in years.
“Once parking is full, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive will be closed and open intermittently as parking spaces become available, most likely between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” park officials posted on the Zion website.
The shuttle service was implemented about 20 years ago to alleviate traffic congestion in the narrow canyon. Mandatory for canyon visitors much of the year, the shuttle buses have enabled Zion to accommodate more and more visitors, reaching a record 4.9 million last year.
Suspending the service will likely make it difficult to access popular destinations in Zion Canyon during busy parts of the day.
Meanwhile, park officials are taking other measures to reduce the possibility of coronavirus transmission, such as creating “virtual visitor centers” in lieu of staffed buildings, and putting all wilderness permits online. Park rangers will be available in real time to answer calls and emails during regular business hours for information and trip planning, according to the park’s announcement.
Capitol Reef National Park has also limited its visitor services, closing the visitor center and Gifford House on Monday.
And at Bryce Canyon National Park, the visitor center will remain open, but the front desk will not be staffed. Ranger programs have been cancelled and park film showings are cancelled until further notice.
— Brian Maffly
6:25 p.m.: Feds close Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the Utah-Colorado state line, closed its key indoor attractions to the public Monday, citing coronavirus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Monument managers shuttered the visitor center and exhibit hall associated with its world-famous dinosaur quarry indefinitely.
"The outdoor areas of the monument remain open for hiking and other recreation,” they said in a news release. “We regret these restrictions, but they are being implemented in the interest of overall public health.”
They are asking visitors to follow CDC guidance of maintaining a social distance of at least six feet and not gathering in groups larger than 10 people.
Dinosaur is now the first site operated by the National Park Service in Utah to restrict access in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. Utah’s other national parks and NPS destinations, such as Glen Canyon National Recreation Area remain fully open for now. Southern Utah’s Zion and Arches national parks saw long lines at its entrance stations Monday.
Utah closed visitor centers at six state parks as well. They are Antelope Island, Dead Horse Point, Goblin Valley, Great Salt Lake Marina, Utah Lake and Wasatch Mountain state parks, which all remain to the public.
— Brian Maffly
6:18 p.m.: Summit County announces two more positive cases, bringing state total to 41
The Summit County Health Department announced that it has a total of 13 cases. That’s two more than the state reported when it updated its confirmed case count at 1 p.m.
In that state total, Summit had four cases among residents and seven among visitors. The county doesn’t distinguish in its online count only saying it has 13. That is the second highest confirmed case county beyond far more populous Salt Lake County, which has a total case count of 18.
Overall the state has 41 cases, and at least 29 are residents.
6:10 p.m.: Hogle Zoo closes to visitors
Monday was the last day Hogle Zoo will remain open until further notice.
The “animal care team” will continue working to provide the lions, tigers and bears (and all the other animals) with food and medical care. But no visitors.
The zoo says any unused tickets will be honored at a later date in 2020 and memberships will be extended the length of this closure.
— Matt Canham
6 p.m.: Canyons teachers don’t have to work at the schools during the shutdown
After hearing concerns, Canyons School District will allow its teachers to work from home. The district, following state guidelines, had intended to have its staff report in at its schools.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said during a news conference last week that schools would remain open and teachers available, though students would move to online classes for the next two weeks. But several teachers in the district spoke out, saying they worried about contracting the coronavirus while in the building.
“We took time today to dialogue with Canyons teachers about how we can best provide education to our community while also safeguarding everyone’s health,” the district wrote in a tweet. “We listened — and made the decision to allow CSD teachers to work from remote locations starting immediately.”
Some staff, mainly principals, will remain at schools during the dismissal.
— Courtney Tanner
5:50 p.m.: Inmate visits suspended, replaced with phone calls
Salt Lake County jail officials announced that they will suspend all visitation, and the visiting area will be used for noncontact attorney visits, cash bail payments and for law enforcement purposes.
Those who are coming to the jail will be asked to have their temperature read with a “no-contact infrared thermometer” before coming into the facility, officials said.
Because visitation is canceled, the jail is allowing inmates three free phone calls per week.
"The sheriff’s office wants to support prisoners by allowing them to maintain their ties to those in the community,” officials wrote in a tweet.
The Utah State Prison is similarly offering free phone calls because of canceled visitation, giving inmates 10 free 15-minute phone calls per week.
Davis County officials also announced Monday evening that they would cancel visitation, but made no mention of any free calls.
— Jessica Miller
5:15 p.m.: Intermountain and University of Utah Health are canceling surgeries, visits in preparation for a coronavirus surge
Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah Health jointly announced Monday that they are postponing nonemergency surgeries and doctor appointments for the time being to save bed space and supplies for a possible influx of coronavirus patients.
“I do want you to know this decision is in line with the best medical evidence we have on the novel coronavirus,” said Mark Briesacher, chief physician executive at Intermountain Healthcare. “It is about people and keeping them safe.”
Sam Finlayson, the chairman of the U.'s Department of Surgery, said this delay could last for awhile, because COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere soon.
“I don’t think this is going to pass quickly,” Finlayson said. “This is going to be a matter of weeks and possibly months.”
He said serious care, such as for cancer patients, will continue. Briesacher said the decision will be left with individual specialists.
Part of the reason Utah’s dominant medical systems are canceling doctor visits is to help promote “social distancing,” the practice of keeping people separate to slow the spread of the virus.
And part of the reason is to preserve supplies. Both medical systems say they have enough for now, and described this as a proactive step to make sure they have enough for an expected increase of serious cases. But Briesacher said supplies are “an area of concern.”
— Matt Canham
4:10 p.m.: Salt Lake Marathon is canceled
Add the Salt Lake City Marathon to the list of cancellations due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The annual footrace, set for April 18, “will be postponed until 2021,” according to an announcement posted on the marathon’s website Monday.
“We are devastated with this outcome and share in your confusion, frustration and sadness,” organizers wrote.
Race organizers are offering two options for those who have already registered and paid their entry fee. One is to defer the fee to next year’s race, on April 17, 2021. The other is to run, bike or skate their own race virtually, before May 18, by sending documentation of one’s accomplishment using an endurance activity tracker (such as Strava, MapMyRun, RideWithGPS or others) and complete a Google form on the marathon’s website.
Those choosing the virtual race will be able to pick up their swag bag — with T-shirt, finisher’s medal and other goodies — at Salt Lake Running Company, at a date to be determined.
— Sean P. Means
2:35 p.m.: State warns that price gouging is illegal
Did somebody try to charge you $30 for a roll of toilet paper? Or $40 for bottle of hand sanitizer? Then the Utah Division of Consumer Protection wants to hear from you so it can take action against price gougers.
“During a declared state emergency, Utah law forbids excessive prices on goods and services sold at retail,” said Chris Parker, interim executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce. “Our Division of Consumer Protection stands ready to investigate complaints and take action against violators.
”Price gougers can be fined $1,000 per violation — up to $10,000 a day — under the Price Controls During Emergencies Act. And the state began receiving complaints over the weekend.
“Price gouging is not how we do things in Utah,” said division director Daniel O’Bannon. “We will promptly investigate complaints and take action to protect our citizens."
2:25 p.m.: Free concert series will go on, online
The show will go on for Salt Lake City’s free Excellence in the Community concert series — though the audience will be far away and far apart due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The concerts, on Wednesday nights at 7:30 p.m. at the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City, will play before an empty room, said Jeff Whiteley, the series’ founder. Fans can watch the performances live-streamed on the Facebook pages of the Gallivan Center and the Excellence series.
The series has offered 126 free concerts featuring Utah musicians since 2005.
— Sean P. Means
12:50 p.m.: 29 Utahns now confirmed with coronavirus, including high school student
The number of Utahns confirmed to have coronavirus rose from 21 to 29, the Utah Department of Health announced Monday, with one case being treated as a case of community spread.
A Wasatch High School student was confirmed to have the virus and it is being treated as a case of community spread.
The student was identified early, Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist said. Those who were in contact with the student have been identified. No secondary cases — people who caught it from the student — have been diagnosed.
Ten nonresidents of Utah also have been diagnosed with coronavirus here, state officials posted in updated numbers on Monday afternoon. Previously, only seven non-Utahns had been diagnosed here.
None of the confirmed cases in Utah are health care workers, Dunn said.
The new resident cases are in Salt Lake County (2), Summit (2), Davis (1), Wasatch (1), Tooele (1) and Weber (1) and in Southwest Utah (1).
The Tooele County case is someone who was traveling.
New cases involving nonresidents were confirmed in Salt Lake and Summit counties.
Most of the cases have been in northern Utah, but Dunn said there likely will be more cases in southern Utah. “We are prepared for it to spread statewide,” she said.
“We have tested over 700 Utah residents for COVID-19,” said Dunn.
There are still shortages of tests for coronavirus, and of the personal protective equipment (PPE) that health care workers must wear when administering the tests, Dunn said.
There is no treatment for coronavirus, just for the symptoms, either at home or in hospital, Dunn said.
“We encourage those with mild illness to stay at home,” Dunn said.
Small gatherings, such as with family, "are encouraged and fine," as long as no one has symptoms of COVID-19, Dunn said. She recommends good hand hygiene and social distancing, "but it is good to keep those connections," she said.
“It’s important to keep doing the things that keep us happy,” Dunn said.
Health officials nationwide, Dunn said, are collecting data on how much the disease spreads from people who don't have symptoms. "We're going to learn new things every day from this outbreak," she said.
— Erin Alberty
12:30 p.m.: Smith’s needs more workers as shoppers stock up, and Utah stores urge customers to remain calm
Smith’s grocery stores are “immediately” hiring workers to help stock shelves as demand for essential items surges during the outbreak, the company announced Monday.
In a prepared statement, Smith’s corporate affairs manager Aubriana Martindale said the grocery chain and its employees are working to remain accessible to communities.
“To help alleviate the increased workload, we are hiring immediately to make sure we have the food and supplies our customers need in a clean, orderly store environment,” Martindale said.
More information on job availabilities can be found at smithsfoodanddrug.com or by visiting a Smith’s grocery store, according to the company announcement.
The Utah Food Industry Association also put out a news release urging customers to remain calm and shop responsibility (i.e. don’t hoard)
The retail supply chain remains strong, according to Dave Davis, the president of the association.
“If a shopper does not need an item in the next two weeks, leave it for someone who does,” Davis said. “Hoarding and stockpiling creates unnecessary fear and may create a situation where someone who truly needs a product may not be able to find it in a store. This has the potential to place in jeopardy the most vulnerable among us — the elderly and those with existing health issues.”
— Benjamin Wood
Noon: University of Utah reduces library hours
The University of Utah has reduced the hours that the Marriott Library will be open — including closing it on weekends — and will only be allowing students and staff inside. Starting this week, the main library on campus will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. And only the West entrance will be used.
“Please also recognize that these hours and library services may be reduced even more substantially or the libraries may even be closed as things continue to evolve exceedingly quickly,” noted a campus alert. To get inside, faculty and students will have to hold up a university ID at the doors. The library will allow students to check out laptops and hotspots for Wi-Fi starting Monday. And it will host live chats here: https://lib.utah.edu/help.
Additionally, the U.’s Student Life Center and gym will close to all visitors until at least April 1. And the campus’s Commuter Services will offer prorated refunds to those who bought parking passes.
— Courtney Tanner
11:55 a.m.: Salt Lake City mayor will seek $1M for small business
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also says she’s going to ask the City Council to approve a $1 million package at its meeting tomorrow to help small businesses in Salt Lake City.
— Taylor Stevens
11:25 a.m.: Gov. Herbert announces economic task force
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Monday the creation of an economic task force that will work in conjunction with the Utah Coronavirus Task Force to address the economic impact of the coronavirus. Its first meeting will be Tuesday at 9 a.m.
— Taylor Stevens
11:15 a.m.: Salt Lake County puts restrictions on restaurants and bars
Restaurants and bars in Salt Lake County will halt all sit-down service beginning at 11 p.m. Monday, the county Health Department announced, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. County Mayor Jenny Wilson declared a public health emergency that will extend for no more than 30 days and violations would be a class B misdemeanor.
Guests, however, will be able to order meals online for pickup. Delivery from third-party companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash also will be available.
The county is following the lead set by Summit County, which on Sunday issued a sweeping order to close all businesses where people gather.
Grocery stores will remain open.
“During this time of national crisis, we are proud of our restaurant and bar owners in Salt Lake County and the lead they have taken to do what we know is best for our community,” said Michele Corigliano, executive director of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association. “As much of a hardship this will be for our business owners, we have seen an outpouring of love and concern for their employees and the difficulties they face. Our restaurant owners will now focus on serving guests the best they can, keeping within strict food safety policies, as take out and delivery will be their main focus.”
— Kathy Stephenson
11 a.m.: Utah government to send many more workers home
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has directed state agencies to speed up teleworking initiatives in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The opportunity and responsibility falls upon all of us to continue to provide essential government services to the citizens of our state and to minimize the disruption to our operations that comes from a pandemic,” two top advisers to Gov. Gary Herbert wrote in a message sent last Thursday.
The message instructed state agencies to take several immediate steps — designate a telework department coordinator; set aside resources for the expedited rollout; figure out which jobs can be performed remotely; and review a guide for introducing teleworking.
Agencies are expected to report their progress and prepare an action plan with a list of employees eligible to work from home, according to the letter by Justin Harding, Herbert’s chief of staff, and Kristen Cox, who heads the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.
"The State of Utah must lead by example, ensure the health of its employees, and plan for all scenarios," the message concluded.
The state began introducing telework to some of its agencies in 2018 as a way of easing building space needs, cutting down on tailpipe pollution and increasing employment opportunities in rural Utah.
Productivity went up by more than 20% among the 136 employees who participated in the pilot program, and officials reported the work-from-home experiment prevented 273 pounds of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere.
State leaders in July said the telework program was so successful, they’d decided to expand it across Utah’s government and hoped about 2,500 additional employees would begin working from home by the end of 2020.
— Bethany Rodgers
10:30 a.m.: The bookmobile serving rural Utah is shutting down
The Utah State Library is shutting down its bookmobile service for at least two weeks, beginning Monday.
Bookmobiles serve rural areas of the state, including all or parts of Garfield, Kane, Piute, Iron, Millard, Sanpete, Sevier, Juab, Wayne, and Utah counties.
“With schools statewide closed until March 30 and many public buildings also closed, it isn’t feasible or safe for the bookmobiles to continue operating,” according to a library release.
It will “follow the guidance of local and state health officials in determining when service can resume.
”Utah’s Online Public Library will continue to operate, offering eBooks, audiobooks, movies and online learning at onlinelibrary.utah.gov.
— Scott Pierce
9:45 a.m.: Sen. Mitt Romney wants to give every worker $1,000
Washington • Sen. Mitt Romney wants to give working Americans a one-time payment of $1,000 to help during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Utah Republican said Monday that urgent action is needed to aid workers and he wants a direct payment included in congressional legislation now being debated.
Romney also proposes “bridge grants” to small businesses in need.
The House passed an economic stimulus bill last week and the Senate is poised to vote on it in the coming days.
“We also urgently need to build on this legislation with additional action to help families and small businesses meet their short-term financial obligations, ease the financial burden on students entering the workforce, and protect health workers on the front lines and their patients by improving telehealth services,” Romney said in a statement. “I will be pushing these measures as Senate discussions continue about an additional relief package.”
— Thomas Burr
9:20 a.m.: Utah’s Grand Princess passengers have returned
Almost two dozen Utahns who were passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship returned to the state Sunday on a flight chartered by the federal government.
According to the Utah Department of Health, the 23 Utahns spent a week in quarantine after being evacuated from the ship after more than 20 people on board tested positive for COVID-19. None of the Utahns shows any symptoms, and all of them “either tested negative or are awaiting test results.”
The plane carrying the 23 Utahns landed at the Utah Air National Guard base, where they were met by Health Department staff and reunited with family members and friends, who took them home.
The Utahns will be quarantined in their homes for an additional two weeks, and will continue to be monitored by state or local health departments “dependent upon their individual situations," according to health officials. “They pose no additional risk to the community.”
Another 14 Utahns remain quarantined in California and Texas.
— Scott Pierce
9 a.m.: Rural Utah counties warn against travel
There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Daggett, Duchesne and Uintah Counties, but officials there are asking residents to voluntarily avoid travel.
“In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state, we are asking residents to strongly reconsider any recreational, leisure and non-essential work-related travel that will take them outside of our communities,” TriCounty Health Officer Jordan Mathis wrote in a news release.
The travel advisory went into effect Monday and will continue “until further notice.”
“Compliance with this advisory will aid our statewide efforts to limit the speed of the spread of the virus and prevent our local and state healthcare resources from becoming overburdened,” Mathis wrote.
— Scott Pierce
8 a.m.: The latest closure? Utah’s comedy clubs.
Wiseguys Comedy Clubs have shut down all three locations through the end of March.
Cancellations include performances by Kevin Nealon, Sam D’Antuono, Shane Mauss and Dulce Sloan.
The closure affects the downtown Salt Lake City, Jordan Landing and Ogden locations.
“We care deeply about our customers, employees and comedians and feel that this is the best decision at this time,” said owner Keith Stubbs. “This won’t be easy for any of us. Hopefully, we can get through this quickly and resume business as usual.”
— Scott Pierce