Live coronavirus updates for Wednesday, April 1: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert extends order against dining in at restaurants; Park City Mountain Resort to furlough 391 staffers

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign on the 600 North overpass of northbound on I-15 on Tuesday March 31, 2020.

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. To support journalism like this, please consider donating or become a subscriber.

It’s Wednesday, April 1. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]

8:15 p.m.: Governor extends order against dining in at restaurants during outbreak

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has extended his order prohibiting patrons from dining in at restaurants during the coronavirus outbreak.

In an executive order issued late Wednesday evening, Herbert has pushed the closure through April 15. However, diners and eateries can now allow customers inside to pick up orders — as long as they follow proper social distancing and stay 6 feet away from each other.

“I am grateful to Utah’s restaurants for their efforts to quickly adjust to new policies,” the governor said in a statement. “It is encouraging to see so many businesses take seriously their responsibility to protect public health.”

The order also explicitly requires individuals who test positive for COVID-19 or who are members of the same household as someone who tests positive to quarantine.

Salt Lake and Summit counties’ individual health orders, though, remain more restrictive than the state’s and do not allow customers inside the restaurant.

— Courtney Tanner

7 p.m.: Park City Mountain Resort to furlough nearly 400 employees

Park City Mountain Resort will furlough nearly 400 employees after the ski season ended early amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came Wednesday in a letter from CEO Rob Katz. "Because of these realities and to ensure that we can navigate the financial challenges ahead, we are taking certain measures, including some that will unfortunately affect each of our U.S. employees,” he wrote.

Spokeswoman Margo Van Ness confirmed that 391 resort staffers will be furloughed. Most of those are hourly workers that will lose pay though they will retain full health care coverage.

The furlough is expected to last one to two months, according to Katz’s letter.

The CEO also wrote that the early closure of the resort is expected to cost the company around $200 million.

In light of the loss, Katz said he is “giving up” his salary for the next six months. Additionally, all employees not furloughed will see salary reductions. And there will be no cash compensation for the company’s board of directors.

“I recognize this is very disappointing news to be receiving and I had hoped we would not have to take this action,” Katz said. “But with each passing week, the financial consequences have become more apparent.”

— Courtney Tanner

6:20 p.m.: Salt Lake County Sheriff explains penalties with stay at home order

Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said that officers may issue citations or arrest individuals who violate orders to stay at home — but that should only happen in “extreme cases.”

“Law enforcement is obligated to enforce this order just like any other law,” Rivera said in a video posted Wednesday evening. When a large group is reported or someone is violating the county’s orders around essential businesses or social distancing, Rivera said an officer will first speak to the individuals involved and ask them to stop. If they do not, he or she may issue a warning or a citation for either a class A or class B misdemeanor.

“In extreme cases,” she added, “the officer can arrest and take that person to jail.”

Rivera said there will be no traffic or pedestrian stops or checkpoints, though. For her and her officers, the point of enforcing the rules is not to rack up high citation numbers but to make sure residents are staying safe.

— Courtney Tanner

5:35 p.m.: Salt Lake City School District now offering dinners for students

In addition to providing breakfasts and lunches while schools are closed, Salt Lake City School District will now start offering dinners for students during the coronavirus pandemic.

The district announced the program would start Wednesday and run with the help of the Utah Food Bank. Fifteen designated sites will provide “grab and go” dinners on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays during the normal meal pick-up times between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

The food will be shelf stable, so students don’t have to eat it right away. And all meals are pre-packaged and handed from staff to a family in its car.

These are the locations where dinners will be available:

• Backman Elementary, 601 N. 1500 West

• Bryant Middle School, 40 S. 800 East

•Clayton Middle School, 1470 S. 1900 East

• East High School, 840 S. 1300 East

• Edison Elementary, 430 S. Cheyenne Street

• Escalante Elementary, 1810 W. 900 North

• Franklin Elementary, 1115 W. 300 South

• Glendale Middle School, 1430 W. Andrew Avenue

• Highland High School, 2166 S. 1700 East

• Liberty Elementary, 1085 S. 300 East

• Mary W. Jackson Elementary, 750 W. 200 North

• Meadowlark Elementary, 497 N. Morton Drive

• Nibley Park School, 2785 S. 800 East

• North Star Elementary, 1545 N. Morton Drive

• Parkview Elementary, 970 S. Emery Street

• Riley Elementary, 1410 S. 800 West

• Rose Park Elementary, 1105 W. 1000 North

• West High School, 241 N. 300 West

• Whittier Elementary, 1600 S. 300 East

— Courtney Tanner

5:15 p.m.: Utah eligible for $2.6 million for coronavirus response and recovery

Utah is eligible for more than $2.6 million in funding from the Department of Justice to help with its coronavirus response and recovery.

The money comes from the recent stimulus package signed into law that allocated $850 million nationwide. Nineteen jurisdictions in Utah — from Provo to Tooele to Washington County — can apply for a share and the state can also pass money along to those that are not among them.

Additionally, the Navajo Nation, which shares a corner of the state, can apply for $486,348.

“We are all in this together,” added U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber in a statement. “The president, Congress and the United States attorney general know how important our first responders are, and this supplemental funding will further bolster our counties and cities in their public safety missions.”

Awarded funds can be used to hire personnel, pay overtime costs and alleviate expenses of hard-hit areas.

— Courtney Tanner

3:30 p.m.: Stay home and save the summer, Utah groups urge

Dozens of Utah sports and performance venues sent out the same message Wednesday: To “save summer and fall” from the coronavirus, Utahns should stay home now.

“What you do over the next few weeks can either help or hinder the return of some of your favorite events this summer and fall,” read the message, emailed to subscribers and season-ticket holders of 27 arts groups, venues, booking agencies and sports teams.

The list ranged from the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake to the Utah Shakespeare Festival and FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention.

The email reiterates the steps people are being asked to do to stem the spread of the coronavirus: Staying home when possible; venturing out only for food, medicine or essential work; washing hands often and properly; not touching one’s face; and following social distancing guidelines.

When the danger of coronavirus has passed, the message said, sports and the arts will be part of the recovery.

“After a long period of isolation, our communities are going to need live interaction, connection and celebration more than ever,” the message read. “Help us flatten the curve now in order to help your favorite event or sport return.”

The email was coordinated by the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts.

— Sean P. Means

3:15 p.m. Intermountain Healthcare expands its capacity to test for the coronavirus

Intermountain Healthcare announced Wednesday that it has expanded its capacity to test people for the coronavirus.

It can now collect up to 1,500 samples and process 1,000 tests daily at 20 drive-up and curbside locations throughout the state.

“We know that many people are worried about the cost of testing,” said Rebekah Couper-Noles, vice president of operations. “What people need to be aware of is through the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, everyone is covered for COVID-19 testing, regardless of your insurance status.”

Though the testing capabilities have expanded, Intermountain is asking that only people showing symptoms get tested at this point. Its leaders ask that people call its hotline, 844-442-5224, to have their symptoms assessed, and a nurse can determine whether they should go be tested.

Couper-Noles said they prefer that people call the number ahead of time and make an appointment, but sites can accommodate those who go to a testing center without calling ahead.

Health care workers who are conducting curbside testing will be wearing personal protective equipment, including a mask and hood. Anthony Wallen, a doctor at Intermountain, said Wednesday that, so far, they are in a “good place” with the number of PPEs they have available for their employees.

— Jessica Miller

2:30 p.m.: Wanted: Air purifiers health workers can wear

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox on Wednesday asked Utah manufacturers to make air purifiers, but not just any air purifiers.

Cox, who leads the state’s coronavirus task force, wants what looks like a mask or helmet connected to a hose. The hose will lead to an air tank. The mask or helmet is a piece of protective equipment for health care workers.

“We have seen those being made in other states and we’re putting out the call here,” Cox said Wednesday at a news conference.

Cox asked any manufacturer who might be able to make such gear to go to https://coronavirus.utah.gov/help/ where information will be posted under a heading about personal protective equipment.

— Nate Carlisle

2:20 p.m.: Utah’s social distancing may be bending the curve, state epidemiologist says

Utah is not seeing exponential growth in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, likely thanks to continued social distancing by residents, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said at a Wednesday news conference.

The number of cases appears to be flattening, but officials need to see that trend continue “for a good two weeks” before drawing a conclusion, she said.

Utah has passed the 1,000 mark for confirmed coronavirus cases and two more people have died, the Utah Department of Health reported Wednesday. Both of the patients who died were over age 65, Dunn said.

— Sheila R. McCann

2 p.m.: Utahns can defer rent payments until May 15, governor says

Gov. Gary Herbert on Wednesday said he was issuing an executive order allowing tenants to defer rent payments until May 15.

The order also forbids landlords from starting the eviction process until May 15, Herbert said. The governor said he issued the order after speaking with staff of the Utah State Courts.

“This is to help people who through no fault of their own have lost employment or lost income because of the COVID-19 virus,” Herbert said at what has become a daily news conference to discuss the state’s response to coronavirus.

Although Herbert initially said the 45-day rent deferral applied to both residential and commercial properties, his staff later retracted statement that via email, saying it was only applied to residential tenants.

The order it does not relieve renters of their obligations, Herbert noted, but rather only allows them to delay those payments as they recover from economic damage from the COVID-19 crisis

Thousands of Utahns have lost their jobs in recent weeks due to government-ordered social distancing to slow the virus and many now face new payment obligations as of April 1.

“This is an appropriate practical notice at this time to help give some certainty and eliminate some confusion, apprehension and fear is out there in the marketplace today,” Herbert said.

At least 34 states have issued some kind of moratorium on evictions as of this week in reaction to the health emergency, though executive actions or orders through their court systems.

Herbert also said he plans to ask the Utah Legislature to hold a special session to address coronavirus issues. He did not say when such a session would be held. Herbert indicated the session would focus mostly on economic issues, including helping renters and business owners who have lost income.

He also urged Utahs to avoid spring travel. Staff at state parks will be checking the identification of visitors, he said, and turning away those who are from other areas of the state.

And he modified his previous stay-at-home directive, allowing restaurants to have on-site ordering under certain conditions.

— Nate Carlisle and Tony Semerad

1:40 p.m.: Smith’s gives employees $2-per-hour temporary pay raise

Smith’s Food & Drug will give its front-line employees a temporary $2-per-hour pay raise, officials announced Wednesday, a benefit the company is calling a “hero bonus."

The pay increase will be applied to hours worked from March 29 through April 18. The raise will help more than 1,000 Utah grocery workers at Smith’s stores across the state.

This change also will impact more than 460,000 Kroger grocery workers nationwide. Smith’s is a subsidiary of Kroger.

“Our associates have displayed the true actions of a hero, working tirelessly on the front lines to ensure everyone has access to affordable, fresh food and essentials during this national emergency,” Kenny Kimball, president of Smith’s, said in a news release. “The hero bonus is just one more way we continue to convey our thanks and gratitude not only to our existing associates but also to the more than 1,700 new hires who have joined in the past two weeks and those who will soon join the Smith’s team.”

Many of the new workers have come from the hardest hit industries like restaurants, hotels and food service distributors.

All hourly front-line grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call-center employees will get the $2 premium — above their standard rate of pay — as well as additional emergency paid leave and new workplace safety measures.

The pay raise was secured by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.3 million employees in grocery, retail and other industries. The raise follows Kroger’s previous announcement of a one-time bonus to front-line associates, which pays out on April 3.

Kroger companies are taking several other actions to support staff, including:

• Emergency paid leave for associates recovering from COVID-19.

• Express Pay that allows most hourly associates to access some of their pay faster.

• $5 million to the company’s Helping Hands fund for employees facing financial hardship, needing child care help or who are at high-risk of COVID-19.

• An associate hotline to answer benefit questions quickly.

• Mental health services.

— Zoi Walker

1:25 p.m.: Harmons gives away 3,300 thermometers

In less than three hours Wednesday, Harmons Grocery stores ran out of its free thermometers.

An anonymous donor provided the digital thermometers to the Utah-based grocery chain last week.

At 7 a.m., Harmons started distributing 3,300 FDA-approved digital thermometers at eight drive-thru windows, a representative said. By 9:30 a.m., they had all been given out — one per family.

Like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, thermometers are one of the items that consumers purchased en masse amid the coronavirus pandemic. At one point, they were selling for hundreds of dollars online, although retailers like Amazon tried to put a stop to the price gouging.

— Zoi Walker

12:50 p.m.: Utah now has more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, 2 additional deaths

Utah has passed the 1,000 mark for confirmed coronavirus cases and two more people have died, the Utah Department of Health reported Wednesday.

One of the deaths is 83-year-old Donna Saracino, according to her family. She died Tuesday at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.

The number of cases increased 14% for a total of 1,012. Utah now has reported seven coronavirus deaths.

The number of Utahns needing to be hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms jumped to 91. It had been 73 on Tuesday.

The number of hospitalizations is important as the state tries to conserve hospital beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment for medical staff and tries to keep the virus from spreading to hospital workers.

State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn has said about 10% of all Utahns contracting the coronavirus need hospital care, a rate lower than seen in many states and countries.

— Nate Carlisle

11:55 a.m.: Herbert shoots down April Fools’ prank sent out over social media

Gov. Gary Herbert said this April Fools’ Day, in the midst of a global pandemic, was “not the time for irresponsible” jokes.

The admonishment came after someone shared an image of him with a caption that said Utah students will have to repeat their current grade next school year.

Utah public schools have been temporarily dismissed and students are learning from home to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Tami Pyfer, Herbert’s education advisor, tweeted the image and said, “To be clear — THIS IS NOT TRUE.”

She said that the image was forwarded to her, and that she’s gotten a call from someone who thought it was true.

Herbert then shared that tweet with his own message: Bad jokes on this April fools’ Day are reckless.

He added, "I am tremendously grateful to our teachers for their tireless efforts to continue educating Utah students — and I’m impressed by the dedication of our students who are learning from home,” he said.

— Paighten Harkins

11:50 a.m.: Weber State loaning medical equipment to local hospitals and clinics

Weber State University is loaning its medical equipment, like ventilators, to local hospitals and clinics that are need as they treat people who have contracted the coronavirus.

With students and faculty working from home, all of the university’s clinical and lab rotations have been canceled — which means they have extra medical supplies on hand.

The school said in a Wednesday news release that it loaned out 15 ventilators to McKay Dee Hospital, and plans to gather other supplies like N95 masks to donate to the Midtown Community Health Center and the Ogden Clinic.

“As healthcare professionals we are always looking for opportunities to serve in our community,” said Kristine Bouwhuis, simulation operations manager in the nursing school. “We are dedicated to reaching out in times of need, especially now with this virus closing in on our community. It has affected many, and as we have been able to collaborate, we have identified areas that could benefit from some of our leftover supplies.”

As of Tuesday, the university’s College of Health Professions has donated 200 N95 masks, 800 patient masks, 200 fluid-resistant gowns, 110 bottles of hand sanitizer, 200 head covers and boxes of gloves and eye goggles.

— Jessica Miller

11:40 a.m.: O.C. Tanner will donate medical equipment to Utah hospitals

O.C. Tanner will donate medical gear to Utah hospitals after converting a portion of its manufacturing space to create medical equipment.

It’s first shipment was to the University of Utah hospital, where they received needed ventilator parts and adapters for powered air purifying respirators.The company has also developed prototypes for face shields for doctors and nurses, and plan to create and donate those to hospitals across the country.

"This is a humbling project to be part of,” says Josh McEwan, O.C. Tanner’s director of product development. “The hospital staff are amazing people who are currently facing uniquely hazardous conditions while they serve our communities. This is a difficult time for everyone across the world, but it’s also a unique opportunity for us to help people thrive in a different way, and to be part of something so vitally important to saving lives.”

O.C. Tanner is an employment recognition company based in Salt Lake City that usually uses its manufacturing space to create software, jewelry and Olympic rings.

— Jessica Miller

11:35 a.m.: COVID-19 leads to record-breaking flight to Salt Lake airport

The COVID-19 outbreak led to a new record for the longest non-stop passenger flight ever to Salt Lake City International Airport.

The airport tweeted on Wednesday that the new record was set on March 25 by an Ethiopian Airlines jet chartered to help return missionaries sent home early by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of the COVID-19 threat.

It said the B777-200 aircraft traveled from Lomé, Togo, in western Africa. The trip logged 7,131 miles over 14 hours and 49 minutes in the air.

The airport offers regular service to such destinations as Paris (5,063 miles) and Amsterdam (4,973), and in the past offered it to Tokyo (5,459 miles). Delta Air Lines has said it hopes to add service to Seoul, South Korea (5,867 miles) after expansion of the Salt Lake airport is completed.

— Lee Davidson

9:50 a.m.: Hovenweep and Natural Bridges join growing tally of closed parks

Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments are the latest National Park Service destinations in Utah to be closed to reduce spread of the coronavirus.

All public access to the small monuments, both located in remote parts of southeastern Utah’s San Juan County, closed Wednesday in response to guidance offered by the San Juan Public Health Department, which issued travel restrictions late last week.

Nonresidents and visitors to San Juan County risk getting ticketed if they drive through on “nonessential travel.”

At the same time, the health department encouraged locals to engage in outdoor activities to maintain fitness during these trying times “as long as they are done responsibly and in accordance with current social distancing recommendations.”

Elsewhere in southeastern Utah, the park service has closed Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

In Juab County, the Bureau of Land Management has shut down Little Sahara Recreation Area, a 60,000-acre expanse of sand dunes popular for off-roading. Spring is normally its busiest time, with up to 30,000 visitors on many weekends using its trail network and four developed campgrounds.

According to the BLM, 15,000 people visited Little Sahara on the weekend of March 20, more than a week into Utah’s emergency declaration related to the epidemic sweeping the nation.

— Brian Maffly

8:02 a.m.: Ballet West cancels Choreographic Festival

Ballet West has canceled its annual Choreographic Festival, which would have brought international dance groups to Salt Lake City from May 14 to 16.

In mid-March, when two dancers from Ballet West were diagnosed with COVID-19, Ballet West leaders said they intended for the show to go on — even though Singapore Dance Theater and the Royal New Zealand Ballet had dropped out.

With Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson extending the closure of four county-run performing venues — including Ballet West’s home base, the Capitol Theatre — to May 15, company directors say the decision to cancel was inevitable.

Ticket holders can get a refund, or a voucher for one of next season’s performances, or donate the value of the ticket as a charitable contribution.

“The cancellation of the Choreographic Festival has tremendous impact on Ballet West’s financial health, and we hope our ticket buyers will choose to donate the value of their ticket,” Michael Scolamiero, Ballet West’s executive director, said in a statement. The company will send a tax receipt to anyone who makes a donation.

The Ballet West Academy is still closed, but officials aim to reopen on May 4, conditions permitting. The goal is to resume academy performances in late May or early June.

— Sean P. Means

Return to Story