Live coronavirus updates for Friday, March 27: Another Utahn has died as cases reach 480; LDS missionary tests positive

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.

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It’s Friday, March 27. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]


8:57 p.m.: Latter-day Saint missionary tests positive for coronavirus

A Latter-day Saint missionary serving in Mexico City was diagnosed with COVID-19, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday.

The missionary, who is from Guatemala, is experiencing mild symptoms. He and his companion are in self-isolation, according to a news release.

The missionary’s previous companion returned home to California two days ago and has also been placed in self-isolation. He is not showing symptoms.

“The church will continue to reinforce established self-isolation procedures for missionaries who are traveling, at home and in the field," the release said. “We are monitoring rapidly changing world conditions and are making adjustments as warranted.”

Paighten Harkins

7:52 p.m.: Arches, Canyonlands national parks to close Saturday

Both Canyonlands and Arches national parks near Moab are closing indefinitely beginning Saturday.

The parks broke the news Friday evening on Twitter, saying that in response to local health authorities, neither parks will allow visitors “until further notice.”

The closures applies to all visitors, including vehicles and bikes. No one will be allowed to enter the park, its campgrounds or trails, including backcountry trails. Roads are also closed.

Paighten Harkins

5:30 p.m.: Second person tests positive at BYU

A second person at Brigham Young University has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Provo school, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reported the new case Tuesday on its website, which lists staff and students with diagnoses. It did not specify any details about the individual.

The school asks that anyone on campus who receives a positive test to fill out a self-reporting form at byu.edu/coronavirus.

— Courtney Tanner

2:30 p.m.: San Juan says no more camping by outsiders; move will affect Bears Ears National Monument

San Juan County, home to Bears Ears National Monument, announced Friday that it would be closing camping to nonresidents after public health officials acknowledged the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19.

The order applies to designated campgrounds as well as dispersed campsites on public lands.

Sheriff Jason Torgerson said in a statement he would be working with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the police departments in Blanding and Monticello to enforce the new restrictions.

“It should be noted that all campers are currently being contacted by law enforcement officers to ensure compliance with the San Juan Public Health Order and closure signage is being established at popular camping locations," Torgerson said. “Citations can and will be issued, especially in instances of repeat offenders.”

The Southeast Utah Health Department, which oversees Grand, Emery and Carbon counties, issued a similar order earlier this month as have counties in Colorado.

The San Juan Health Department and Southeast Utah Health Department sent letters to the National Park Service on Wednesday requesting the closure of Arches and Canyonlands national parks as well as Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments.

As of Friday afternoon, the parks remained open for day use.

— Zak Podmore

2:20 p.m.: With congressional relief, Delta Air Lines avoids mandatory furloughs

Because of the new coronavirus relief package passed by Congress, Delta Air Lines — which provides 73% of the flights out of Salt Lake City International Airport — is telling its employees that none of them will face mandatory furloughs or pay cuts.

“The payroll assistance funds ensure there will be no involuntary furloughs or reductions in pay rates through Sept. 30, 2020, across our U.S. industry. That is great news for all of us,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote to employees Friday.

The airline provided a copy to The Salt Lake Tribune.

“The agreement includes $25 billion in direct financial assistance for airline employee salary and benefits," Bastian wrote. “It also includes $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees, as well as tax relief.”

Still, he said, the airline, which cut its flight schedule by 70%, is looking for volunteers to take furloughs to help the carrier.

“For those who are still considering it, an unpaid leave continues to be the most important way you can help the company over the next few months," he explained. “We could use more volunteers.”

While the congressional relief package helps the airline, Bastian said it is not a cure for the challenges that Delta faces — and is one of several actions that help.

“Those include the cash raised in the financial markets; salary reductions for officers and directors; voluntary leaves; reduction in work hours as we substantially downsize our operation; and expense reductions that come from consolidating airport facilities, closing many Delta Sky Clubs, deferring nonessential maintenance and pausing all nonessential capital projects,” he said.

Bill Wyatt, executive director of Salt Lake City International Airport, said earlier this week that despite challenges to Delta and other airlines, it is proceeding for now with the $4.1 billion project to replace the airport — with a first phase scheduled to open in September.

Passengers are down by 75% at Utah’s largest airport.

— Lee Davidson

2:05 p.m.: County councilman tests positive, urges state to step up its efforts to battle the virus

Salt Lake County Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw announced Friday on Facebook that he tested positive for the coronavirus “after experiencing symptoms for several days.”

“The good news is I have been working from home and practicing social distancing prior to the onset of my symptoms,” he wrote, “and have practiced self-isolation since I began experiencing symptoms, which has restricted my contact with others outside my household.”

Bradshaw, who was elected to the council in 2010, said he will continue to work on the coronavirus response with Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, his colleagues on the County Council and the Salt Lake County Board of Health.

He urged the state to take “additional steps to limit the spread of the virus,” like a shelter-in-place order.

In his post, the councilman thanked the doctors and medical professionals “working on the front lines of this crisis” and the University of Utah Health team that administered his drive-up test.

“I encourage everyone in our community to support them as best we can," he added, “by trying to slow the spread of this virus by staying home, social distancing, washing our hands, and following the advice and direction of public health officials and medical professionals.”

Bradshaw is the first Salt Lake County Council member to publicly announce a positive diagnosis for COVID-19. Two Salt Lake City Council members have contracted the virus: District 5 Councilman Darin Mano and District 6 Councilman Dan Dugan.

— Taylor Stevens

1:45 p.m.: Soda shops seeing a pop in business

Utahns love their soda, and that hasn’t changed even with social distancing practices.

In fact, places like Swig are seeing an uptick in the number of drive-thru customers.

The Swig on Lehi’s State Street had cars wrapped around the building with more pulling in by the minute Friday. Sodalicious had cars in its drive-thru as well.

According to Carson Eagan, manager of the Lehi Swig, his store has been consistently busy since counties around Utah started shutting down dine-in options at restaurants and putting limits on retail.

He said the shop has even been busy during times that are usually slow.

Eagan said he’s had customers thank him for being open because a lot of businesses have shut down their soda machines.

— McKhelyn Jones

1:35 p.m.: Can’t find meat in the store? This food supplier may be able to fill your order.

Like most food suppliers, Salt Lake City’s Majestic Meat Co. has plenty of beef, chicken and fish, but only a few restaurants that actually need it during the coronavirus pandemic.

To make ends meet, the owner of the small, family-owned company is allowing individuals to order products online for delivery or curbside pickup. From chuck roasts and pork chops to ground beef, steak and salmon, said owner Ray Zaelit, “people can order anything we have on the website.” They also will take orders by telephone at 801-486-4904.

In addition to everyday items, Majestic has a few gourmet products like the certified Piedmontese beef that high-end Italian restaurants serve.

Selling the products helps the company survive but can benefit everyday consumers, too, Zaelit said. “We had people contact us, saying they have been unable to find some of these meat products in regular grocery stores.”

Last week, when the state told restaurants and bars to stop all dine-in service to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the ramifications rippled through the food industry, Zaelit explained. Restaurants and bars were forced to close or limit service to takeout and delivery. In turn, they stopped ordering everything from meat and bread to eggs and vegetables from their suppliers.

Until last week, food service was 95% of Zaelit’s business. He is still able to provide some meat products to restaurants for takeout and to nursing homes. But he still had to lay off all but six of his 25-member staff.

“We’re just trying to stay afloat,” he said, “until we can bring those employees back.”

— Kathy Stephenson

1:25 p.m.: Details on Utah’s second death

The second Utahn who has died of COVID-19 is a woman from southwestern Utah who was under age 60. She died Thursday at a Salt Lake City area hospital and had significant underlying health conditions, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.

“We want to express our sympathy for this individual’s family and friends”, said David Blodgett, the health officer for the Southwest department. “We encourage our community to maintain social distancing in your daily activities and make the effort to protect our older or vulnerable residents.”

The area health department has reached out to people who were in contact with the woman and has asked them to self-quarantine.

Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, expressed her condolences during the state’s daily news briefing. She reported that the cases are up to 480, a 19% increase from the previous day.

“Our case increases on a daily basis continue to be steady and that’s a good sign,” she said, noting that Utah hasn’t seen exponential increases like some states. She said it means self-isolation is working.

And she said the percent of tests that have come back positive has stayed at 5%.

During the briefing, Jack Meersman, with Gold Cross Ambulance, encouraged people to call 911 only if they have to. He said calls about coronavirus concerns are starting to overwhelm the system. He said an individual paramedic will approach the door and ask a few questions before deciding how to respond. Some may be told they have to stay at their home.

— Matt Canham

12:50 p.m.: Utah has another coronavirus death, total cases reach 480

Utah’s total confirmed cases of COVID-19 now stand at 480 and a second Utahn has died of the virus, according to the latest numbers released from the state Department of Health on Friday.

A Davis County man was the first Utahn to die from the coronavirus. His death was reported last Sunday,

Utah added 78 cases in the past day, jumping from 402 on Thursday to 480. That is the largest single day increase.

The total number of people tested rose from 7,710 to 9,244

Salt Lake County saw its total cases rise from 181 to 221.

Summit County, where a stay-at-home order takes effect at midnight, saw its cases increase from 103 to 110.

The new numbers don’t include the first case in the southeast region, which San Juan County reported earlier.

— Matt Canham

12:15 p.m.: Ogden coffee shop closes for the greater good

In a push to support local businesses, are Utahns going too far and ignoring the six-foot social distancing rule?

The owner of Grounds for Coffee on Ogden’s 25th Street has come to that conclusion, announcing on Facebook and Twitter that the shop would shut its doors until the pandemic has run its course.

“We love you too much to keep putting you in this position,” said the post.

“It’s with a heavy, heavy heart that I say this, but I feel like we have a social obligation to close our doors, for now. The support we’ve seen has been so intensely humbling and has brought me to my knees several times — but it’s too many people still going out, a lot of whom are feeling like THEY have an obligation to US, and it’s just too much. “

Grounds for Coffee is one of several Utah food businesses to close for the greater good.

Last week, after successful nights selling takeout, the owners of Laziz Kitchen and Manoli’s restaurants in Salt Lake City said they were uncomfortable staying open during the pandemic. Romina Rasmussen, the owner of Les Madeleines bakery, also decided to close shop for the protection of staffers and customers.

— Kathy Stephenson

11:30 a.m.: Tony Finau to donate food to the families of elementary students

Pro golfer Tony Finau will donate food to 500 at-risk children from Backman and Liberty Elementary schools every week through May, his foundation was announced.

Starting Monday at 11 a.m., volunteers will deliver the food first to Backman, where Finau attended school as a child, then to Liberty. The full donation will consist of 500 family bags and additional donations of food and poultry.

The delivery on Monday will contain 31,000 meals and snacks for the week and include hand soap and hygiene kits.

“As a Foundation, we’re excited to partner with For The Kids and help provide relief during an extremely difficult time,” Finau said in a news release. “Their support of the Rose Park community, where I am from, made this partnership an obvious choice. Our hope is that by taking care of and helping these kids and their families, they will get the nourishment they need and feel the spirit of love and community that makes Salt Lake City, and the whole state of Utah, a great place to call home.”

Heather Newell, principal of Backman Elementary, thanked Finau and said, “These families don’t have the means to stock up on food and supplies. They don’t have money to buy necessities, let alone fill their cart.”

— Alex Vejar

10:40 a.m.: San Juan County has its first confirmed case

Public health officials in San Juan County announced Friday that a male resident of the county under the age of 65 has tested positive for COVID-19. It’s the first confirmed case in southeast Utah.

No further identifying details were immediately released, but the San Juan Public Health Department announced the news in a joint release with the Utah Navajo Health System and the Navajo Department of Health, indicating the patient may be a resident of the southern part of the county, which overlaps with the Navajo Nation.

Last week a resident of Chilchinbeto, Ariz., a small Navajo Nation community 30 miles south of Monument Valley, Utah, tested positive and cases on the reservation have since grown to 71 with the epicenter of the outbreak in northern Arizona.

— Zak Podmore

9:53 a.m.: American West Heritage Center’s baby animal event will be drive-thru only

The annual Baby Animal Days at the American West Heritage Center in Wellsville have not been canceled — but they have been significantly changed. This year, they’ll become Drive-Thru Baby Animal Days from Wednesday, April 1-Saturday, April 4, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Guests won’t be able to get out of their cars and pet the baby farm animals. They must stay in their vehicles with the windows rolled up and just look at the beasts — including a group of baby bears.

According to a news release from the center, the event has been approved by the Bear River Health Department.

Admission to the event at the American West Heritage Center, which is 6 miles south of Logan, is $20 per vehicle, and tickets must be purchased online at awhc.org.

– Scott D. Pierce

9:10 a.m.: Liquor commission will meet “virtually,” so consumers can join in

The inner workings of the state liquor commission — which handles all alcohol licensing and compliance for Utah — can sometimes seem mysterious. But for those who have time on their hands — and isn’t that everyone these days? — the seven member-board will hold its monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 31, “virtually.”

It’s the first time in recent memory that the meeting has been online and not at the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control headquarters, 1625 S. 900 West, Salt Lake City.

“In response to the governor’s executive order and for precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the DABC announced, “an anchor location for on-premises public attendance will not be available. Public attendance is available by audio.”

The call-in number for the meeting, which starts at 10 am., as well as the agenda are available on the Utah Public Notice website.

Don’t expect fireworks — it’s a public meeting, after all — but it is interesting to learn about new restaurants and bars, up-and-coming breweries and distilleries and how much money the DABC collects each month — especially given the current coronavirus pandemic.

If you miss it, don’t worry. The Salt Lake Tribune will listen in and let your know about the most important changes at sltrib.com and in the Utah Eats newsletter.

8:40 a.m.: Winter Market at Rio Grande Depot canceled for the season, but online ordering and pickup available

Salt Lake City’s weekly Winter Market has been canceled for the rest of the season after the recent earthquake damaged the building where it is held.

“The Rio Grande Depot has been deemed uninhabitable,” an email to patrons said. “Also, with the rapidly emerging situation with COVID-19, we don’t want to risk your safety, the safety of our vendors or our staff.”

Consumers, however, can still support the small farmers and producers who have set up online ordering for their products as well as pickup points. The Downtown Alliance, which sponsors the market has a page on its website where all the efforts are listed. Plans for the Downtown Market at Pioneer Park, which usually starts in early June, are still tentative, the email states. “We will know more in the coming weeks as to what we will need to do, with guidance from state leaders and health department directives.”

The damage to the Rio Grande Depot during the March 18 quake was mostly plaster falling from the interior walls that had lead paint, a notice on the Utah Heritage and Arts website states.

“The resulting dust has made the building unsafe to enter until HazMat crews can clean the building,” it states. “There is also some structural damage that will need [to be] repaired, although engineers have not found anything that would prevent the building from reopening in the future.”

There is currently no timeline for the repairs to be completed.

– Kathy Stephenson