Live coronavirus updates for Sunday, March 22: Cases in Utah rise to 181; State Sen. Luz Escamilla tests positive

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, announced Sunday, March 22, 2020 that she tested positive for COVID-19.

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It’s Sunday, March 22. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]

9:30 p.m.: State Sen. Luz Escamilla announced that she has the coronavirus

Sen. Luz Escamilla released a statement saying she started experiencing the symptoms Friday evening and learned of her positive COVID-19 test Sunday.

“As someone who has asthma, this is a scary diagnosis,” she wrote. “But I am confident that I will make a full recovery.”

The Salt Lake City Democrat added: “Although I am pretty sick right now, I am continuing to work to ensure that Utah’s most vulnerable communities are not overlooked during this crisis.

"Thousands of Utahns are out-of-work through no fault of their own, and our state must take immediate steps to remove the threat of evictions and fees in the event that people are unable to pay rent. We must also identify and address the needs of the truckers, food service workers, grocery workers, childcare providers and others who are proving that they are indeed essential employees.

"They, along with our medical professionals, custodial workers and others are keeping our world moving during this difficult time. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. Finally, we must see that our tribal communities, communities with limited English proficiency and people experiencing homelessness have the support and resources they will need.”

Escamilla urged Utahns to take the virus seriously. Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, offered his “thoughts and prayers for a complete, speedy recovery.”

— Matt Canham

6:40 p.m.: Rep. Ben McAdams hospitalized with COVID-19

Rep. Ben McAdams, who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, was admitted to the hospital Friday evening after suffering “severe shortness of breath.”

The Utah Democrat said Sunday that he expects to be released soon.

McAdams, who confirmed last Wednesday that he had contracted the novel coronavirus, said he was following public health guidelines when he phoned the COVID-19 hotline after his breathing grew worse.

“I was instructed to go to the hospital and check in with the isolation unit to be seen by health care providers equipped to receive me,” McAdams said Sunday night in a statement. “I was admitted and have been receiving oxygen as I struggled to maintain my blood oxygen at appropriate levels.

"I am now off oxygen and feeling relatively better and expect to be released as soon as the doctors determine it is appropriate.”

McAdams is one of three members of Congress now confirmed to have COVID-19.

The Utah congressman thanked the “skilled hospital medical staff for their efficient and effective treatment, as well as their preparations.

“My experience has shown me how critical it is to follow the advice of the CDC and the Utah Department of Health in order to stop the spread of this virus,” he added.

— Thomas Burr

5:50 p.m.: Salt Lake district will distribute student meals once a day, starting 11:30 a.m. Monday

The Salt Lake City School District announced it is changing up its meals for students program.

Beginning Monday, the district won’t serve breakfast from 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m., but will serve to-go combo meals in a single daily distribution at 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

“We will continue to serve meals every weekday, Monday to Friday, even during Spring Break,” the district announced.

Each combo meal will include a sack lunch to eat the same day and a sack breakfast to refrigerate and eat the next day.

Sites may remain open after 12:30 p.m. if families are still in line at that time.

Check the district website for locations.

— Dan Harrie

5:40 p.m.: Biggest toilet paper ‘bust,' actually a donation

The Unified Police Department of Salt Lake tweeted out a photo of a big pyramid of toilet paper rolls, and boasted of the “largest TP bust our agency has ever seen” — nearly 400 “illicit” rolls.

But the tweet was a joke and the agency quickly tweeted the real story.

The TP stockpile was donated by the manager of the Magna Burger King who provided 380 rolls to be given to those in need during the coronavirus outbreak and following the 5.7 magnitude earthquake near Magna last Wednesday.

“We want to thank the manager for her incredible act of generosity,” the UPD tweeted. “We also want to remind our community that people like this manager and her workers, as well as the officers, are still forced to work every day to try and take care of their communities the best they can.”

— Dan Harrie

5:15 p.m.: Red Cross asks Utah blood donors to help replenish low supply

The American Red Cross of Utah/Nevada is seeking blood donations at a time when spokesman Rich Woodruff says supply is low.

“Blood drives are way, way down, supply is at precipitously low levels, and we are struggling to get the word out,” Woodruff told The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday.

“It is safe to give blood, there is no data stating that coronavirus is transmitted through blood. We are using extraordinary safety measures at this time. Distancing, everyone screened, etc.”

Woodruff pointed out that with schools, universities and mobile blood stations shutting down, there are fewer opportunities to donate currently. People wishing to donate are encouraged to visit redcrossblood.org and enter their zip code for an available list of donation sites. Woodruff is recommending making an appointment as opposed to showing up unannounced.

— Josh Newman

4:20 p.m.: Cancer Society to close Hope Lodges

The American Cancer Society announced what it called a “heartbreaking decision” Sunday.

It is closing its Hope Lodges nationwide by Friday.

These lodges, including the one in Salt Lake City, are places where cancer patients who must travel long distances can stay with their family members while they get treatment.

Salt Lake’s lodge is at 375 E. 100 South. It opened in 2015 and has 40 guest rooms.

The cancer society says it is working with guests currently staying at the lodges to find alternatives, which could include heading home.

The society news release said: “This is a heartbreaking decision for the American Cancer Society and our staff. However, we feel it is the only responsible decision we can make as this pandemic grows. The health of our staff, volunteers and guests surpasses even our will to serve.”

— Matt Canham

2:30 p.m.: Utah’s health care system has ample capacity; officials want to keep it that way.

State epidemiologist Angela Dunn said while Utah’s health care system is not near capacity at this point in the coronavirus outbreak, health officials expect the number of cases to continue rising and want to ensure the care system does not become overloaded early.

“If you don’t need that level of care [that a hospital or doctor’s office visit can provide], stay home and self isolate,” Dunn said.

The state so far has seen about a 10% rate of hospitalization for the 181 patients testing positive for the COVID-19 virus as of Sunday. “The vast majority will recover on their own,” Dunn said.

She said she is unaware of any positive test to date in a health care worker.

— Dan Harrie

1:50 pm.: Utah coronavirus cases rise to 181, and Utah records its first death

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state climbed to 181 on Sunday, according to numbers released by the Utah Department of Health. That is up from 136 on Saturday.

A Davis County man older than 60 is the first to die of the disease in Utah.

State epidemiologist Angela Dunn said about 10 percent of Utah’s confirmed coronavirus patients have been hospitalized, a figure she described as manageable. She continued to urge people to call a doctor instead of showing up at a hospital.

A total of 3,689 tests for the virus have been performed.

The confirmed cases include 169 Utah residents and 12 visitors to the state, with 84 in Salt Lake County, 50 in Summit County and 19 in Davis County.

— Benjamin Wood