Live coronavirus updates for Friday, April 3: Utah has 1,246 cases, no new deaths; Gov. Herbert tells what he expects of Utahns staying home

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A digital sign over I-80 reads, "Stay Safe Stay Home," in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

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It’s Friday, April 3. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]


7:55 p.m.: Skaters not deterred by park being closed

On Friday, a Salt Lake Tribune photographer saw a skater quietly moving the closed sign at the Fairmont Skate Park out of the way and join the dozen or so others using the space.

It’s something city officials have been hearing complaints about since COVID-19 gathering restrictions were put in place. Salt Lake City Public Lands have said playground equipment, concessions, bathroom, drinking fountains and skate parks are closed.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A skater quietly puts aside a "skate park closed" sign at Fairmont Skatepark in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 3, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sport courts and fields are open to people who live in the same house. Dog parks are open, too. Using parks, trails and other lands is OK as long as people stay 6 feet apart, the city has said.

About 25 people were at the closed skate park Friday afternoon.

People can report stay home order violators at slc.gov/mayor/stay-safe-stay-home-complaints/

— Paighten Harkins

7:10 p.m.: Man living at halfway house diagnosed with COVID-19

A person living at a Utah Department of Corrections halfway house has been diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday.

It’s the first case of coronavirus at the DOC’s so-called community corrections centers, according to a news release. The centers are transitional housing for people without places to go after release from prison or those who are struggling or at-risk.

The man is between the ages of 45 and 64. He is stable and has been placed in isolation at the center. DOC didn’t release the man’s name or where he was staying.

According to the release, the man hasn’t been in a state prison since late 2019.

Everyone in the man’s facility will be quarantined for 14 days.

Dan Blanchard, Adult Probation and Parole director, said in the release that staff will evaluate those living in the homes.

He added that they would consult with health department officials and his department may recommend to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to release some offenders early to help stop the virus’s spread.

— Paighten Harkins

6:28 p.m.: Gov. Gary Herbert explains “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive

Gov. Gary Herbert told Utahns what he expects of them under his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive.

In a Friday tweet thread Herbert said he wanted to clarify the behavior that is “expected and required of us all, if we want to slow the spread of COVID-19.

”First, he said, no one should spend time with anyone outside of their immediate household. That means no visitors in your home, even if they’re family members.“

Only people who are living under the same roof should be under the same roof or spend time together,” he said. “Period.”

He added that even small gatherings are dangerous. So no pick-up volleyball or basketball games.

Sunday dinners — or any other dinners or parties throughout the week — with people outside of your household are not allowed.

Travel is prohibited, he said, except for essential services.

“Only leave home if you have to, and do so as little as possible,” he said.

A necessary reason to leave home includes for work and to get food and medicine.

He added that outdoor recreation is OK, but people should only do so if they maintain social distance — and don’t travel far away to do it.

“If your primary residence is on the Wasatch Front and you are traveling to Washington County to gather with extended family members for a recreational weekend, turn around and go home,” he said.

— Paighten Harkins

5:05 p.m.: Four drive-thru DMV offices to extends their hours

Four drive-thru Utah Division of Motor Vehicle offices will now be open longer during the week and on Saturdays after long lines formed at the few facilities that remained open this week.

The South Valley, Salt Lake, Farmington and Ogden offices will all be open on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and will resume business on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Hurricane office is also open, but without extended hours.

The DMV recently closed all other offices to help stop the spread of COVID-19. All lobbies remain closed.

For renewals, Utahns can visit rex.utah.gov or visit spot station, which can be found by going to spot.utah.gov.

— Paighten Harkins

2:50 p.m.: Utah sets up “alternative hospital” for overflow patients

Utah Department of Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson said Friday that state officials have set up an “alternative hospital” that can be used to treat patients if traditional hospitals become overcrowded while caring for people who have the coronavirus.

The alternate center is not for those who have the virus, but is a back-up site in case others need medical care and the hospitals are full treating people with COVID-19 — or if there’s an incident with mass injuries or fatalities.

“The COVID-19 patients would remain in our main hospitals where proper care and attention can [be given] to them,” he said, “especially knowing how vulnerable people are with the spread of this particular virus.”

There are currently 250 beds in the alternate center, Anderson said, and it has the capacity to fit another 750 beds, if needed.

“We hope that we will never have to use our alternative care sites,” he said.

Anderson said state officials are asking that Utahns who are trained medical professionals and could help in the overflow facility if the need arises to go to the state’s website and let officials know about what training they have and when they could help.

Anderson also said that state officials are working to find quarantine and isolation sites for people who are experiencing homelessness or have “compromised” homes where isolation isn’t possible.He did not detail where these sites are located, nor did he say where the overflow hospital is.

— Jessica Miller

2:45 p.m.: Hill Air Force Base cancels Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show

Hill Air Force Base will have to wait until its 82nd year to celebrate eight decades of excellence, after it canceled its Warriors Over the Wasatch Air and Space Show on Friday, because of coronavirus concerns.

This year’s edition of the biannual show, which was themed “80 Years of Excellence,” was scheduled for June 27-28. The next Warriors of Wasatch is planned for 2022.

“We’re disappointed that the 2020 Hill Air Force Base Air Show and Open House will not happen, but believe it’s the right thing to do given the COVID-19 outbreak and our responsibility to protect public health,” Col. Jon Eberlan, 75th Air Base Wing commander, said in a statement. “We appreciate our community’s patience and understanding as we navigate these times together.”

Hill Air Force Base was activated in November 1940. It held its first open house April 6, 1946, in celebration of Army Day.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron and more than a dozen other military and civilian aerial acts and ground displays were expected to be featured at this year’s event. The two-day event typically draws 600,000 attendees and generates upwards of $50 million of economic stimulus for the surrounding communities.

— Julie Jag

2:05 p.m.: As Utah gathers more medical supplies, quarantine and isolation sites are being developed

Utah will need 3.6 million N95 masks, 4.7 million gowns and 2.2 million face masks to fight the coronavirus, retired Utah National Guard Adjutant General Jefferson Burton said at a news conference Friday.

Recently tapped by Gov. Gary Herbert to coordinate day-to-day operations of the state Department of Health during the COVID-19 outbreak, Burton also shared these numbers:

• 297 ICU beds in Utah are filled, mostly with non-coronavirus patients. The state’s ICU bed capacity is 600.

• Burton thinks that at the peak of the outbreak in the state, Utah will need 227 ICU beds, based on modeling by the University of Washington.

• Utah has a few less than 1,000 ventilators capable of being used to care for coronavirus patients; 28% of them are being used by other patients.

Burton said Utah has distributed 57,000 N95 masks and has 3 million on order. Of the 4.7 million gowns needed, 160,000 are on hand and 18,000 have been distributed. Of the 2.2 million face shields needed, the state has received 67,000 and distributed 14,000.

“Utah has strived to be prepared," Burton said. “A lot of preparation went into this.”

— Nate Carlisle

1:45 p.m.: Zion National Park is being closed, governor says

Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday afternoon that Utah’s Zion National Park will be closed “immediately,” as the number of cases of the coronavirus continues to grow in Utah.

Officials in two gateway towns near the park have been pleading with officials to close Zion, one of the nation’s most heavily visited national parks, especially in April.

“We feel the park’s closure is essential to limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Utah. Out-of-state visitors continue to come through our communities on their way to Zion National Park, potentially bringing the virus with them, endangering park employees as well as area residents,” Rockville Mayor Pam Leach earlier wrote in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune. “Our hope is that the National Park Service recognizes the serious nature of the virus and acts accordingly.”

Herbert said Friday that the park will be closed immediately, and state leaders also are working with Arizona officials to shut down the boat ramps at Lake Powell, hoping to have it closed by the weekend. “The next two weeks are critical,” he said.

The new leader of the coronavirus response by the Utah Department of Health, Jefferson Burton, said Friday that the Zion closure was decided on after officials looked at the current environment at the park and the difficulties in maintaining proper personal protective equipment there.

“It was decided this was a prudent measure,” he said.

While visitor services and many popular Zion Canyon destinations were closed, the national park had remained open.

Herbert said that people should resist the temptation to gather in groups, even in the outdoors, over the next two weeks. If someone who lives on the Wasatch Front has a vacation home or hotel reservations and is headed to southern Utah this weekend, they should turn around and go home, he said.

“I appreciate those who are complying,” he said. “But there are some out there who aren’t doing as well as they could or should.”

The governor said people can go outside to exercise, but should make sure to stay 6 feet away from others and not gather in groups.

“Stay safe by staying home,” he said. “Do not travel unless it’s essential. We’ll all be better off when we slow the spread of this coronavirus.”

— Jessica Miller

1:15 p.m.: Annual plant sale for Wasatch Community Gardens will be online

Wasatch Community Gardens’ annual plant sale, the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser of the year, is going online, Executive Director Ashley Patterson announced Friday.

Gardeners will be able to order plants beginning April 30 from the website with staggered pickup times about a week later at the group’s Green Phoenix Farm, 622 W. 100 South, in Salt Lake City.

“The list of plants available for purchase also is on the website,” she wrote in an email to subscribers. “We have such a great selection of heirloom veggies picked out for you this year, and we expect to have around 30,000 plant starts.”

The plants are grown on the Salt Lake City farm and in two separate greenhouses.

"We know that community building around healthy, organic, local food happens most effectively in person,” Patterson said, “but without that option, we’re eager to connect with you all the best way we can.”

— Kathy Stephenson

1 p.m.: Utah has 1,246 confirmed coronavirus cases, no new deaths

Utah returned to a double-digit percentage increase in the number of coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the state’s total to 1,246. The state’s death toll remains at seven.

The number of COVID-19 cases increased by 16% from Thursday. The increase in cases was not unexpected. The number of tests reported Friday was significantly higher than on Thursday.

State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn on Thursday said it was taking up to three days for testing centers to report their results and there appeared to be a lull in people seeking testing during the weekend.

Also Friday, the first case of the coronavirus was reported in Emery County. It was announced by the Southeast Utah Health Department, which described the patient as a male between the ages of 18 and 35. He is recovering at home, the health department said.

— Nate Carlisle

12:50 p.m.: Utah tribes will receive millions in federal housing grants

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) made $200 million in block grants available on Friday to assist Native American tribes with affordable housing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly $1.3 million went to five tribes headquartered within Utah: the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians and the Ute Indian Tribe.

“HUD remains committed to providing Tribes with the tools they need during this national emergency to continue to create safe, affordable housing opportunities for their communities,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement.

The Navajo Nation, which is the largest tribe in the U.S. and has land in three states including Utah, received $22.3 million, making it the top overall recipient of the funds.

The Navajo Housing Authority announced in March that it is waiving all rental and homeownership payments for April and May as well as suspending late fees and evictions for non-criminal activity. The agency manages seven subdivisions along the Utah Navajo strip in San Juan County.

The Colorado-based Ute Mountain Ute tribe, which also has land in San Juan County, received funds as well.

— Zak Podmore

12:45 p.m.: Go to Salt Lake City parks — but stay safe there, city official says

As the days grow warmer and people get sick of sitting inside as part of social distancing efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus, more people are visiting Salt Lake City parks than usual, said Kristin Riker, the city’s parks and public lands director.

And while walking the dog, going for a run or hiking a trail are all acceptable under Salt Lake County’s stay-at-home order, Riker said there are some best practices parkgoers and trail walkers should be following.

Salt Lake City is asking anyone on its trails to maintain a social distance of 15 feet and avoid contact with high-touch surfaces, like gate latches, handrails, bike features and signs.

“We’re asking folks to take it down a notch as far as risk taking out on the trails; if they’re mountain biking, we don’t want people to get hurt” and divert medical resources away from the coronavirus, she said. “We want people to go out and have fun and be on the trails but use caution and be really careful on the trails when they’re out there.”

Hikers are also advised not to share cell phones, sunscreen, water bottles or bike pumps with people outside of their household in an effort to avoid spreading germs.

Riker noted that all park restrooms and drinking fountains are closed — as are skate parks, pavilion reservations and fitness equipment. And team sports are prohibited under the county’s stay at home order.

The cemetery sexton house, which is under the public lands department, is also closed, though people can make funeral arrangements by phone.

Despite the many closures, Riker reiterated that “all of our parks, trails and natural lands are open.

Watching the increased numbers of people accessing parks during this time has been “really fun to see,” she added. “We kind of forget how important parks are to our community and to having mental health and physical health and how important it is for all of us to be able to go outside and be in a green space where there are other people.”

— Taylor Stevens

12:25 p.m.: Utah Food Bank receives large donations to fight hunger during the pandemic

The Utah Food Bank has received several large donations to help it fight hunger during the coronavirus pandemic — including a pair of six-figure grants.

On Friday, the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation announced a $100,000 donation, part of $311,500 donation the power company’s charitable arm has committed to organizations in Utah, Wyoming and Utah.

The Utah Food Bank has received another $100,000 from an anonymous donor — which will be part of a donation-matching campaign that will be open to the public — as well as substantial donations from Sallie Mae, Dairy West and Dominion Energy.

“Utah Food Bank is so grateful to Rocky Mountain Power for their support, as well as all the groups and individuals from the community who are really stepping up to help Utahns facing hunger,” said Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the food bank.

For information on how to donate, go to UtahFoodBank.org.

— Scott D. Pierce

12:05 p.m.: Projection: average Utahns income could drop by nearly $5K

The average Utahn could see his or her income drop by $4,769 this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to projections released Friday by Voices For Utah Children.

The new analysis is based on a forecast this week from Goldman Sachs that the United States’ economic output would likely drop by 6.2% in the current year. Applying that figure to Utah’s economy — assuming it holds true — would mean the $4,769 hit for each Utahn and a $15 billion reduction to the state’s economic output, significantly larger than the decline in the first year of the Great Recession.

It also translates into a loss of between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion in state revenue, which will force policymakers to make some hard choices, according to Matthew Weinstein, who studies state fiscal policy for Voices For Utah Children, a group that advocates for youth programs.

The state has already extended short-term business loans and Gov. Gary Herbert this week put a moratorium on new eviction proceedings until May 15.

But there are other steps the state could take, Weinstein said, include tapping into $811 million in Rainy Day Funds to help counties that don’t qualify for federal coronavirus relief; extending programs to Utah’s roughly 100,000 undocumented residents; expanding outreach programs to help connect people with available relief; offering support to low-income households through an earned income tax credit; removing obstacles for low-income people to qualify for health covered under Medicaid; and using state resources to keep child care centers open.

Weinstein also suggests rolling back a recent income tax cut to shore up safety-net programs that might face shortfalls.

“These are among the many areas where Voices for Utah Children will advocate in the coming days, weeks, and months,” Weinstein wrote.

Utahns are already feeling the economic shocks. Utahns filed a record 28,560 new jobless claims last week, shattering the record of 19,690 in the previous week.

The possible bright spot is that, due in part to the $2.2 trillion federal relief package passed by Congress, Goldman Sachs predicts a quicker rebound from the economic turmoil, forecasting partial economic recovery by the end of this year and a 3% bounce-back in 2021.

— Robert Gehrke

11:15 a.m. Small business loans now available locally

Utah’s small business owners can go to their bank or credit union as of Friday to seek loans to cover payroll and other crisis-related costs through the newly created Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security Act, known as CARES.

The $2.2 trillion CARES law devotes up to $349 billion to this emergency aid in the form of Small Business Administration-backed loans — and where the money is spent to keep paychecks flowing or to pay mortgage interest, rent or utility expenses that help retain employees, these loans will be forgiven.

Updated information on the Paycheck Protection Program is available at the SBA’s web site —https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program-ppp#section-header-6 — and at also at the state of Utah’s clearinghouse for business information on COVID-19, at http://coronavirus.utah.gov/business.

Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, called the CARES loan program “unprecedented in its scope” and “an economic lifeline” to thousands of Utah businesses damaged by the pandemic and social distancing steps enacted to contain it.

The Salt Lake Chamber has assigned some of its staff to help Utah businesses navigate the loan application process and related paperwork, as have several agencies in city and state government.

Congress designed this portion of the CARES Act to let borrowers go to their own bank or credit union to apply for these loans so business owners get the money more quickly.

“Utah’s financial institutions are eager to help our local small businesses by helping to quickly approve and process these loans,” Howard Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association, said in a statement.

Businesses can borrow up to $10 million or the equivalent of two and a half times their average monthly payroll. The two-year loans will carry a fixed interest rate of 1%, do not require collateral or personal guarantees and typical loan fees are being waived.

Loans are available to businesses with up to 500 workers, officials say, and that includes the self-employed and independent contractors as well as nonprofits, veterans groups, businesses on tribal lands and sole-proprietorships.

Larger businesses in some industries can also qualify for this government aid, as can smaller hospitality and food-service businesses operating at multiple locations, as long as each site in the chain has fewer than 500 workers.

The loan program covers COVID-19 related disruptions from Feb. 15 to June 30, 2020.

— Tony Semerad

9:55 a.m.: Weber-Morgan issues ‘stay safe, stay home’ order

The Weber-Morgan Health Department is the latest government entity to issue a “stay safe, stay home” order, urging residents to remain in their homes “to the greatest extent possible.”

Residents have been told to remain home “except to engage in essential activities;” to work from home whenever possible; to follow social distancing; never go to work or public places when sick; and use telehealth options “whenever feasible.”

The order goes on to outline hygiene procedures, define essential activities and social distancing and list “nonessential” businesses and facilities that must close — including amusement parks, museums, playgrounds, gyms, salons and spas. It also calls for social distancing at public parks and sports fields, and prohibits “close contact or team sports, including pickup games.”

Restaurants cannot serve customers on site; take-out and drive-thru are allowed.

The order is intended to “protect individuals’ health, not to hold them criminally liable.” Though there is a potential criminal penalty. “Repeat or egregious offenders may be cited and charged” with misdemeanors.

Weber-Morgan joins Salt Lake, Summit, Davis, Wasatch and Tooele counties, which have also issued stay-at-home orders.

— Scott D. Pierce

9:50 a.m.: Hurricane man with COVID-19 could face arrest

Hurricane’s police chief said Thursday he may bring criminal charges against a resident who has been in contact with someone who contracted COVID-19 and is disobeying quarantine restrictions.

On Friday, the Hurricane Police said in a statement that Police Chief Lynn Excell talked to the resident, a man who has agreed “to comply with … protective measures.”

Excell told the Hurricane City Council Thursday evening that the resident, a man, had been seen walking around the community, the St. George News reported. At the time, Excell said he could not get in contact with the man.

Excell, citing an order issued Wednesday by Gov. Gary Herbert, said it’s now a “criminal offense for someone to be under quarantine and be out in the community.”

Excell told the council he could charge the man with a Class B misdemeanor. A spokesman for the Hurricane Police said Friday that the man is someone who was familiar to local law enforcement before the coronavirus pandemic began spreading across Utah.

Police clarified that the man had not tested positive for COVID-19.

Hurricane is in Washington County, about 17 miles east of St. George. The Southwest Utah Health District, which includes Washington County, had 30 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday.

— Sean P. Means

8:10 a.m.: Medicaid expansion work requirement suspended

The Utah Department of Health has suspended the self-sufficiency/work requirement for Medicaid expansion members because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The community engagement policy, which began on Jan. 1, required some adults to complete an online job assessment, online training programs, and 48 job searches within the first three months of eligibility to continue to receive benefits.

UDOH estimates approximately 30 percent of adults in the program would have been subject to the requirement; most meet one of the 13 exemption criteria, including those age 60 and older; pregnant; caring for young children; already working at least 30 hours per week; or students.

“During this time of increasing cases of COVID-19, a ‘Stay Safe, Stay Home’ directive, and rising unemployment, it is important that Medicaid members be able to continue their health coverage,” Utah Medicaid director Nate Checketts said in a statement. “Suspending the community engagement requirement during this state of emergency recognizes the unique challenges created by this public health crisis.”

— Scott D. Pierce