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It’s Monday, March 30. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.
[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]
7:00 p.m.: Gov. Herbert suspends anti-'double dipping’ rules for government retirees
Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order lifting limits on retired government workers so they can return to work in essential jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
These “critical” government positions that are “essential to public health and safety” include first responders, and workers in financial services, health care and public health, transportation systems and water and wastewater systems, among others. The order temporarily suspends certain provisions of the Utah Postretirement Reemployment Restrictions Act, which basically were put in place to prevent “double dipping,” where a public employee collected government retirement while still working in a different government job.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Utah, “it is imperative that health care facilities maximize the number of capable health care workers” and state and local government entities “have staffing sufficient to appropriately address the impacts of COVID-19,” the order states.
— Becky Jacobs
6:36 p.m.: U. joins anti-racism campaign during coronavirus outbreak
University of Utah leaders posted a video Monday as part of a national social media campaign, called #WashTheHate, that “seeks to raise awareness about coronavirus-related discrimination and violence against Asian Americans.”
“Remember, hate, much like germs, if left unchecked, doesn’t just hurt and damage one person, but anyone it touches,” said Tricia Sugiyama, director of the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, in the video.
#WashTheHate organizers ask people to record a video of themselves washing their hands and sharing a personal story about how the coronavirus has impacted them and then post the video on social media.
Earlier this month, an Asian woman was punched in the face in New York by a person who asked where her face mask was, according to local station WABC-TV. In California, an Asian-American family had their car tagged in racist coronavirus-related graffiti, reports KMPH.
U. President Ruth Watkins said in the video that “this is an unprecedented and unsettling time” that “can be fear provoking and anxiety provoking.” But it’s also “a time to come together and stop acts of hate and discrimination against people of Asian descent,” she said.
Sugiyama encouraged people to not “be that person” who “buys into the lies or hurts others because they’re scared. … Let’s stop this before it spreads.”-
— Becky Jacobs
5:47 p.m.: Salt Lake Police tap new health/safety officer and a wellness officer
Salt Lake City’s Police Department now has a health and safety officer and wellness officer to help employees “during the unprecedented COFID-19 pandemic to address their physical safety and mental health.”
“The health and wellness of law enforcement officers and civilians is essential to public safety,” Chief Mike Brown said in a statement Monday.
Officer Mike Ditolla, who will serve as the department health and safety officer, has 20 years in public safety and a Ph.D. in health education with an emphasis in emergency medical services. “We are laser focused on working with the experts to implement the most effective practices to give our employees the safest and healthiest work environment while still responding to our community,” Ditolla said in a statement.
Officer Derrick Pyles, who will serve as the department wellness officer, has 14 years of experience in law enforcement and program management. Pyles and other employees manage the peer support program, keeping daily contact with self-quarantined employees, bringing supplies to families and providing mental health resources.
— Becky Jacobs
4:42 p.m.: Harmons giving away thermometers
Harmons is giving away digital thermometers to customers starting Wednesday.
Limited to one per family, thermometers will be available through pharmacy drive-thru windows at the following locations:
- 7th Street, 7755 S. 700 East, Midvale
- Draper, 672 E. 11400 South, Draper
- Bangerter Crossing, 125 E. 13800 South, Draper
- Brickyard, 3270 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City
- The District, 11453 South Parkway Plaza, South Jordan
- Mountain View, 13330 S. Kestrel Range Road, Riverton
- Santa Clara, 3520 Pioneer Parkway, Santa Clara
- St. George, 1189 E. 700 South, St. George
An anonymous donor provided the 3,300 FDA-approved digital thermometers for Harmons to distribute, according to a news release.
“Our priority remains doing our best to following COVID-19 guidance and we hope that making a thermometer available to families that don’t have one will help them in their efforts to monitor the health of their loved ones,” said Dean Petersen, Harmons president and CEO, in a statement.
“We are monitoring the emerging situation continuously and are dedicated to doing all we can to support our customers and communities as we all work together in responding to COVID-19.”
— Becky Jacobs
4:18 p.m.: Delta Air Lines steps up cleaning efforts
Delta Air Lines — which provides 73% of the flights from Salt Lake City International Airport — said on Monday that it is shifting into an even higher gear for the cleaning of its aircraft.
Beginning Wednesday, all domestic aircraft will undergo the same interior fogging with disinfectant overnight that Delta has been using to disinfect international aircraft in the U.S. since February.
Also before every flight, airplanes will now be cleaned with the same extensive checklist used during overnight cleanings — including disinfecting such high-touch areas as tray tables, seat-back entertainment screens, arm rests and seat-back pockets.
By early May, Delta says aircraft will be fogged before every flight in its network. It says the disinfectant used in fogging is immediately safe to breathe and is similar to what hospitals and restaurants used to sanitize.
— Lee Davidson
3:55 p.m.: Wasatch County issues stay-at-home order
Wasatch County Health Department issued a public health order Monday directing people to stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The order, issued by Health Officer Randall Probst, goes into effect at 7 a.m. Wednesday and lasts until April 14. It may be extended or amended.
Residents are still allowed to make minimal trips to the store and go for walks and exercise outside. Health officials encouraged people to practice “personal distancing,” keeping six feet away from other people.
Playgrounds and park equipment are closed, but residents can still hike on public lands in the county. Visitors may not come to Wasatch County for outdoor recreation and camping, according to the order.
— Becky Jacobs
3:00 p.m.: Bridge loans available for small Utah businesses
The state of Utah has announced a new bridge loan program for small businesses whose operations have been damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
Loans ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 are available at zero interest for up to five years, to businesses with 50 or fewer employees — with payments deferred for 12 months, the state Governor’s Office of Economic Development said Monday.
The loans will be drawn from an $8 million pool of money previously used for economic development, officials said, and at least 25% of the funds will be steered toward rural recipients.
Applications will be accepted starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday and will remain open until those funds are used up — although officials at GOED said they would continue to seek additional cash for the program from the Utah Legislature and the federal government.
“We hope that this loan program will help keep Utah workers employed and businesses open for business, at least in some fashion, as we face today’s difficult challenges and uncertain health and economic conditions,” GOED’s executive director Val Hale said in a statement.
For more information on the Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan program, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.
— Tony Semerad
2:25 p.m.: Zion Park open and free but not a free-for-all
Zion National Park remains open during the coronavirus pandemic, although most of its facilities are closed, and admission is currently free. But that doesn’t mean visitors can do whatever they want — as one Utah man found out over the weekend.
The Salt Lake City-area resident was cited for BASE jumping at the park. He and two friends were also cited for camping out of bounds and violating a raptor nesting closure.
“Even though we are not charging entrance fees, law enforcement rangers are still patrolling,” said Daniel Fagergren, Zion National Park chief ranger. “Park rules are still in effect and violators will be cited.”
Park officials recommend visitors comply with Gov. Gary Herbert’s directive discouraging unnecessary travel to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
While Zion park remains open, the list of closed facilities includes visitor centers; the Human History Museum and the Zion Park Film; all Zion Forever stores; Zion Lodge; canyon trail ride;, restroom buildings (portable toilets are available); campgrounds; Angels Landing (chained section) from Scouts Lookout to the end of the trail; the Lower Emerald Pools Trail; Observation Point (via the Easter Rim Trail); Hidden Canyon Trail; and Weeping Rock Trail.
The park shuttle, park ranger programs and junior ranger programs are all suspended.
— Scott D. Pierce
2:00 p.m.: Utah’s tax commission closing in-person service
The Utah State Tax Commission has shut down its in-person counter service for all but “critical issues” like making cash payments on liens, the agency announced Monday.
All other services during this period of coronavirus social distancing are to be conducted by telephone or online at tap.utah.gov, said spokeswoman Tammy Kikuchi.
The main number is 801-297-2200, or, long distance, 800-662-4335.
The commission’s Ogden and Hurricane offices are closed to the public until further notice, effective immediately.
— Dan Harrie
1:51 p.m.: Utah National Guard says it has translated coronavirus info into 12 languages
The Utah National Guard’s 300th Military Intelligence Brigade says it has worked with the Utah Department of Health to translate COVID-19 information into 12 languages.
The 300th, based in Draper, specializes in foreign languages, often to gain intelligence from enemies. According to a U.S. Department of Defense news release, the Utah Department of Health asked the brigade to translate 17 documents into 15 different languages.
The languages included Spanish, Arabic, Nepali, Russian, Karen, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Burmese, Farsi, and Korean.
The 300th was unable to make the translations for three languages: Kinyarwanda, Somali, and Swahili.
“Part of the reason I joined the National Guard was being able to serve close to home,” said Spc. Logan Jensen, of the 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion. “This opportunity to combine my language ability and technological competency in order to clearly communicate critical information to Utah’s non-English speaking population in times of crisis is one of the most meaningful aspects of serving as a linguist in the Utah Army National Guard.”
— Nate Carlisle
1:49 p.m.: No more rafting on San Juan River and backpacking at Cedar Mesa, BLM orders
The Bureau of Land Management announced it will close the San Juan River to recreational rafting and Cedar Mesa to overnight backpacking starting on Tuesday.
Both destinations border Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County and typically see their heaviest visitation in the spring. All reserved permits will be canceled through April 20, and the BLM said the closures will remain in place “until such time as conditions allow for safe use.
”The decision comes after the San Juan Health Department closed the county to leisure travel for non-residents on Friday. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said it would begin issuing warnings and citations to visiting campers who failed to comply with the order, including on federal lands.
Other Utah rivers popular with overnight rafters, including the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument and Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park, closed last week. Desolation Canyon in the BLM’s Price Field Office remained open as of Monday. Westwater Canyon in the Moab Field Office was open only for day use.
— Zak Podmore
1:10 p.m.: ‘Next two weeks are critical’ in stemming tide of virus, Herbert says
“The next two weeks are critical" in tamping down the spread of coronavirus, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said at a briefing Monday.
“Everybody has a role to play, everybody needs to be engaged,” Herbert said from the Utah Capitol. “Everybody needs to recommit themselves to do what they have to, to stay home and stay safe.”
“There is big news: Help is on the way,” Herbert said, noting that communication he has had with the White House and other governors are offering ideas for handling the outbreak. He also said the fruits of the $2.2 trillion aid package passed last week by Congress will be arriving soon.
Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Econmic Development, announced an $8 million program to provide bridge loans for small businesses. A quarter of the money will go to rural businesses, Hale said.
The state is still dealing with “the lack of the ability to test everyone,” Herbert said. About 2,000 people are getting tested daily in Utah, he said, and health officials hope to get to 7,000 tests a day.
Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist, noted that "we do have early numbers showing that social distancing is working.”
The rate of growth in coronavirus cases — tallied at 806 in the state as of Monday — is slower in Utah than in neighboring states, Dunn said. She acknowledged that testing is behind in rural parts of the state, but the Utah Department of Health are working to expand testing to all regions.
Herbert said the state hasn’t yet identified which businesses are essential, and which ones aren’t. Salt Lake County has created lists of “essential” businesses and ones that must stay closed.
“Every part of the state is not the same when it comes to the coronavirus,” Herbert said, noting that the state is staying flexible with county and regional health departments. “We cannot identify every single scenario in the marketplace. … You have to use common sense and your own best judgment.”
Herbert urges young people to take the pandemic seriously, citing figures that show only 13% of cases in Utah are 65 and older. “All of us are susceptible, and more so the younger generations,” he said.
Herbert vowed the state will be more transparent with its detailed analysis of who has contracted the virus, aiming to get data posted online in the next 24 hours.
At Monday’s briefing, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox touted a new program, One Utah Child Care, that will connect parents who are considered essential employees with child care resources.
Ten sites for child care have signed onto the program, said Tracy Gruber, director of child care for the Department of Workforce Services, and more will be added.
— Sean P. Means
1 p.m.: Utah launches portal to connect ‘essential’ workers with child care options
Starting today, the state will provide a one-stop portal to connect parents who are considered essential employees with child care resources.
The program, One Utah Child Care, will let parents log onto a website and connect them with child care providers available to meet their needs. Initially, the program will serve the Wasatch Front, but will expand as needed.
“I’m humbled and proud of One Utah Child Care team, which is displaying our state’s ability to come together as one as we support our frontline healthcare workers at a time when they are valiantly serving each of us,” said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who is leading the state’s COVID-19 task force.
Parents who are essential employees can visit jobs.utah.gov to complete an intake form. The participating providers are following the All of the providers participating in the program follow the social distancing guidelines proscribed by the Department of Health’s Child Care Licensing program.
Nonessential employees who need child care can visit careaboutchildcare.org to find available providers.
— Robert Gehrke
12:55 p.m.: Salt Lake County Animal Shelter stops pet adoptions
The Salt Lake County Animal Shelter has halted all adoptions because of the COVID-19 virus.
“No adoptions at this time,” was typed in all caps in an emergency notice posted on the shelter’s website Monday. The shelter is closed “as ordered,” according to its website.
The shelter indicated animal control officers would still respond to injuries and that people who have lost pets can reclaim them by appointment.
In an earlier post, the shelter assured patrons that "our employees continue to care for all the pets in our care, Animal Control Officers are responding to calls for sick and injured animals, and once animals (after the extended stray/wait period) [are cleared for adoption, they] are going to rescues or foster homes, until they can find a new home.”
— Julie Jag
12: 47 p.m.: Utah has 806 cases of coronavirus, and four deaths
Utah is up to 806 cases of coronavirus and four deaths, the state health department said Monday.
The Utah Department of Health reported 719 cases and two deaths as of Sunday. The new fatalities presumably include two deaths announced by families over the weekend: former Utah Speaker of the House Bob Garff, 77, and 24-year-old Silvia Deyanira Melendez of West Jordan.
The increase in cases represents a decline of sorts. The state increased by more than 100 cases each of the previous two days.
— Nate Carlisle
12 p.m.: University of Utah says all summer courses will be online only
The University of Utah has extended its campus shutdown. The school announced Monday that all summer classes will now also be held online as the coronavirus continues to spread.
In a tweet, the U. noted: “This includes first and second session, semester-long summer courses, and continuing education courses.”
— Courtney Tanner
11:35 a.m.: Restaurants urge governor to issue statewide shelter-at-home order
More than a dozen Salt Lake City restaurant owners have sent letters to Gov. Gary Herbert arguing that the “stay home” directive he issued last week doesn’t go far enough to protect their businesses.
‘We are all in consensus that an eight- to 12-week ‘urgent phase’ is going to destroy the ability of many to reopen,” said Missy Greis, owner of Publik Coffee Roasters. “A 30-day shelter-in-place order would have been much more effective in giving us a chance.”
Greis shared several of the letters with The Salt Lake Tribune and, while concerns varied depending on the type of food business, all owners are worried about four main issues:
• Paying first-quarter state sales taxes — due at the end of April.
• Taking on new debt through Small Business Administration loans currently being offered for relief.
• Helping employees.
• Closing for good.
Here’s a snapshot what was said in the letters:
Josh Rosenthal, La Barba Coffee, Creek Tea and Seabird bars • “Some businesses might be able to navigate the downturn through curbside service and delivery,” he wrote. “As a small-business finance expert, I believe very few who attempt this will actually generate enough revenue to make it worthwhile. Worse, I believe they will actually burn through more cash reserves by attempting it. There is absolutely no path to solvency apart from outside aid for my coffee shops or bars.”
Bill Coker and Lucy Cardenas, Red Iguana • The “biggest worry right now’ is paying state sales taxes, they wrote. “We need immediate assistance with that.” Without relief, “most of us will have to close our doors for good.” Also, if restaurants are in tax default, it could impact applications for emergency assistance.
Casee and John Francis, Amour Spreads • The government needs to establish a 90-day “press pause” program, they suggested. Everything from mortgage and rent payments to utility bills would be postponed without interest or penalty. “By providing a 90-day pause, everyone would have a chance to get through the shelter at home, begin recovery and likely be able to pay their next month’s rent/mortgage prior to the 90-day pause and contribute to the economy.”
Stacey Maxwell, Millcreek Coffee Roasters • "My main concern is our employees. We are doing what we can to support them, but we are worried about their ability to pay rent and living expenses while in our current situation. While we are trying to weather the storm, we are concerned about the potential for a 90-day shutdown. I believe it will take a long time for consumers to have confidence to spend again as many of them are in the same situation as our employees.”
Scott Evans, Pago Restaurant Group • “Our biggest concern is extending our debt and overextending ourselves financially to the point where we would jeopardize reopening. The longer the closure, the greater risk of this occurring."
— Kathy Stephenson
Editor’s note • The Red Iguana’s Lucy Cardenas is a member of The Salt Lake Tribune nonprofit board of directors.
10:50 a.m.: New model predicts 502 to die in Utah
The COVID-19 picture is changing fast and so are the best models for how bad this outbreak will be nationwide.
Last week, Christopher Murray, chairman of the Department of Health Metrics Sciences at the University of Washington, released models for all 50 states, projecting that hospitals would soon be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and the number of deaths would rise sharply.
Murray has updated those figures and, while they are somewhat better, it still shows the severity of the threat.
Originally, his model projected that Utah would run out of intensive care beds by the end of this week and that two dozen would be dead. He forecasted a total of 619 Utahns dead before the virus ran its course.
His updated look now predicts that demands might not surpass the number of ICU beds until April 14. He also ratcheted back the projection on the number of dead in Utah to 502. The state would reach its peak cases in late April, at which time 2,771 would need hospitalization and 16 people would be dying each day.
Nationally, Murray forecasts the peak of the outbreak to come April 15, with 2,265 people dying each day at that time and more than 82,000 dying before it’s over.
These models change and are intended to provide a range of scenarios based on the best data available, but illustrate that we are still in the early stages of this pandemic.
— Robert Gehrke
10:40 a.m.: Salt Lake County’s jail population has plummeted
The number of people in the Salt Lake County jail is at its lowest level in more than eight years, as officials try to reduce the number of people incarcerated to limit the possibility of a widespread coronavirus outbreak behind bars.
As of Monday, there are 1,673 people in the jail, according to data from the sheriff’s office. That’s a 21% decrease in a little more than two weeks, when the inmate population was 2,122.
It's the lowest the jail population has been since 2012, which is the oldest data available on the sheriff's office's data dashboard.
A little more than 64% of those currently at the jail have not been convicted or sentenced, and are being held there either on a judge's order or they can't afford to make bail. Of those currently in jail, 83% are accused of felonies, with nearly half of those cases being third-degree felonies.
County officials have tried to reduce the number of people behind bars through early releases and making fewer arrests. Salt Lake County authorities planned to release as many 200 people over the past few weeks to make room at the jail. Other counties are doing the same, and the Utah State Prison announced last week they plan to let at least 80 prisoners out early who had parole dates in the next few months.
— Jessica Miller
9 a.m.: Friends seek to help family of Utah woman who died of COVID-19
A GoFundMe page has been launched to raise funds for the funeral of a West Jordan woman who died of the coronavirus.
Silvia Deyanira Meléndez, 24, died Saturday at University Hospital, according to members of her family. She suffered from diabetes and had a heart surgery two years ago.
“She will be forever missed by so many people,” according to the GoFundMe page.
The fundraiser’s goal was $12,000; as of Monday morning, it had raised more than $13,000.
— Scott D. Pierce
8:35 a.m.: Salt Lake City won’t ticket cars parked at meters
Salt Lake City is changing its parking rules in this crisis once again and now won’t enforce time limits at its parking meters until further notice.
“This is intended to aid residents who live downtown to stay at home without being required to move their cars,” according to a news release from the mayor’s office.
Cars belonging to “city residents” that are otherwise legally parked at meters can stay there indefinitely. In addition, all citations issued to vehicles for parking meter violations on or after March 23 will be dismissed.
— Scott D. Pierce