Live coronavirus updates for Monday, April 6: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef national parks facilities to close

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A woman wears a mask at Salt Lake International Airport on Wednesday, April 1, 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 Monday, April 6. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]


8:34 p.m.: Skiers donating goggles for health care providers who lack eye protection

A group is helping skiers and manufacturers to donate ski goggles to health care workers and first responders who lack eye protection as they treat COVID-19 patients.

Goggles for Docs helps connect donors with organizations that need their help. They can use its website to find groups in their home state seeking help. Donors may enter how many they will send them.

Some Utah ski resorts have used social media to spread word about the group.

As of Monday evening, the website said 14,419 googles have been donated through its efforts nationwide — and that about 1,900 more were needed at that point.

As an example, the Layton Fire Department listed on the site that it is seeking 75 goggles — and donors had signed up to send 13 so far.

Lee Davidson

8:06 p.m.: Bryce Canyon to close Tuesday; Capitol Reef closes main facilities

Bryce Canyon National Park will close down Tuesday because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and key facilities and roads in Capitol Reef National Park also are closing — although a main highway through it will remain open.

Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef had been the final national parks still open in Utah, although they had offered few visitor services.

The National Park Service posted a statement Monday saying the Southwest Utah Public Health Department had recommended a full closure for Bryce Canyon, so it decided to close all park areas to the public beginning at 5 p.m. on Tuesday until further notice.

Park Superintendent Linda Mazzu said the park had tried to follow the social distancing rules suggested by federal and state officials. However, “Continued visitation to Bryce Canyon made it hard to maintain the thresholds needed to ensure a safe visit, which is why this temporary closure is so important.”

The Park Service statement added, “The health and safety of park visitors, employees, local residents, volunteers, and partners in and around Bryce Canyon National Park is our number one priority.”

Meanwhile, Capitol Reef closed its scenic drive on Monday. However, State Road 24 remains open through the park, and its website said some restrooms and trails are open. Its visitor center and Fruita campground are closed.

Capitol Reef also said on its website, “The park is recommending visitors comply with the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe directive to temporarily discourage unnecessary travel and concentrated recreational use to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus and combat the spread of COVID-19.”

Lee Davidson

7:39 p.m.: Jigsaw puzzles by Utah company are booming

One business that is booming because of stay-at-home orders is Utah-based jigsaw puzzle company Dowdle.

It reported Monday that its sales in March jumped by 700%. The boom started in mid-March, and coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in millions isolating at home.

“Being forced to slow down and stay home has caused us all to step back and discover — or maybe rediscover — activities the whole family can enjoy together,” said Eric Dowdle, artist and founder of Dowdle. “Jigsaw puzzles appeal to all ages and can truly bond families together as they gather around the table sharing stories or even memories associated with the iconic travel destinations they represent,” he said.

Dowdle added that vendors have purchased large quantities after selling out of their stock.

“Fortunately for lovers of our puzzles, or any puzzles, we still have thousands in stock and are operating efficiently,” he said. “Our showroom in Lindon now has curbside pickup so local customers can purchase directly through us while practicing social distancing.”

— Lee Davidson

3:55 p.m.: Tabernacle Choir offers a free ‘Messiah’ concert during these ‘uncertain times’

The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square is inviting people worldwide to sing along (or just listen) to a free concert this Good Friday of Handel’s “Messiah.”

The performance, originally recorded in 2018, will be broadcast via internet and social channels beginning at 7 p.m. Friday.

“During these uncertain times, we feel music can bring comfort and peace,” said choir president Ron Jarrett. “We hope members of all faiths join with us by means of this internet stream to celebrate the Savior this Easter with Handel’s classic ‘Messiah.’”

Websites where it will be available include: ChurchofJesusChrist.org, TabChoir.org/messiah and 24/7 Radio Stream on SaintsChannel.ChurchofJesusChrist.org (audio only).

Social, digital and other channels where it will be streamed include: YouTube.com/TheTabernacleChoiratTempleSquare, Facebook.com/TheTabernacleChoir, Facebook.com/ChurchofJesusChrist and Amazon Alexa.

“Messiah” was composed by George Frideric Handel in 1742 with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens. It recounts the story of Christ’s life in three sections, from his birth to his death and eventual resurrection — and is a favorite at Easter.

Lee Davidson

3:40 p.m.: Utah caterers have started to sell grocery items — including toilet paper

Two Utah catering companies have started selling hard-to-find items such as flour, bleach and toilet paper to the public.

Elizabeth’s Catering Company in Salt Lake City and Culinary Crafts based in Pleasant Grove say offering the pantry items has helped fill in the gaps left by grocery stores, but also keeps employees on the payroll.

“The idea is to break even and carry us through the hard times,” said Elizabeth’s owner Ken Copeland. While the coronavirus is “a bad thing economically…. it’s a good thing because we can focus on helping the community where they need us.”

Copeland said the supply chains for catering companies are different than for grocery stores which allows the business easier access to certain products at a slightly higher cost.

Elizabeth’s Catering online market sells a full selection of grocery items — from meat and produce to flour and yeast — for curbside pickup.

The selection at Culinary Crafts also includes hard-to-find items like toilet paper and bleach as well as family meals to go that have been prepared by trained chefs. The dinners feed four and include sides and a dessert. These are also available for curbside pickup.

Culinary Crafts started out with just a few items but has expanded recently, said Meagan Price, marketing director.

“People started asking about other goods like potatoes and butter or toilet paper, so we started to add to our pantry slowly,” she said. “We are not a grocery store, but we wanted to provide products to our team and the public that are becoming harder to find in stores.”

In addition to helping the caterers survive, customers also can make donations to nonprofit groups in the community.

Culinary Crafts customers can donate to Tabitha’s Way food pantry. The company will then double the donation for rice and high-calorie food options.

Elizabeth’s Catering has a “pay it forward” initiative that collects donations to help a family in need. People can submit a grocery request for themselves or others and the company will deliver food at no cost to the recipient.

McKhelyn Jones

3:20 p.m.: Free meals for kids starting Friday

The Sapa group of restaurants and Fillings & Emulsions bakery will give free meals to children every Tuesday and Friday — starting April 10.

The pre-packed items will be available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the drive-thru of OMO Korean Barbecue, 2000 W. 3500 South, in West Valley City. The free meals will continue until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, bakery owner Adalberto Diaz Labrada wrote on Facebook.

“Since we are trying to feed as many children as possible,” he said, “we ask that you take only as many meals as you need.”

This Friday the meal includes the choice of pulled pork or macaroni and cheese and then comes with rolls, salad with dressing, fries and a cookie.

Kathy Stephenson

2:55 p.m.: A University of Utah bus will bring tests to underserved people

The University of Utah’s “Wellness Bus” — which typically does diabetes testing in the community — will now drive around the Wasatch Front offering COVID-19 testing.

Staff on the bus will focus on helping underserved individuals who may not have access to tests.

“This is such great news,” said U. President Ruth Watkins in a tweet, “and a wonderful addition in the effort to help our state address coronavirus.”

Courtney Tanner

2:40 p.m.: Huntsman Corp makes tons of hand sanitizer

Huntsman Corp. — a specialty chemicals company founded and owned by Utah’s Huntsman family — has started producing hand sanitizer. And it will donate the first five tons it makes to the Huntsman Cancer Institute and other University of Utah medical providers.

The company announced the response to the virus Monday, noting its manufacturing site in Alabama will kick off the production. The plant typically makes chemicals used in the aerospace industry. And the corporation received a donation from another company, LyondellBasell, for the isopropyl alcohol required to make the sanitizer.

The Huntsman family then decided the first batch should go the U., particularly the Huntsman Cancer Institute that was started by the late Jon Huntsman Sr.

"This is an incredible example of how leading companies are stepping up to address vital needs of health providers who are on the front lines of battling the coronavirus pandemic,” said U. President Ruth Watkins in a statement. “My deepest appreciation to Huntsman Corporation for its innovation and swift response in meeting this need."

Later batches will be distributed to health care companies across the country. Peter Huntsman, chairman of the corporation and brother to Paul Huntsman, who is the chairman of The Salt Lake Tribune’s nonprofit board, credited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for working quickly to enable production of the sanitizer.

The company’s plant in Switzerland has also started making it, as well.

Courtney Tanner

Editor’s note: Paul Huntsman, chairman of The Tribune’s board of directors, is one of Jon Huntsman Sr.'s sons.

1:40 p.m.: Four of Utah’s five new deaths were nursing home residents

Four of the five people added to Utah’s death toll from COVID-19 were in nursing homes, Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist, said Monday at the Utah Department of Health’s daily media briefing.

The five new deaths were reported Monday, bringing the state tally to 13.

One of the five patients was hospitalized, and was under 60 years old, Dunn said. He was from Salt Lake County, Dunn said.

Two were linked to an outbreak at a resident care facility in Salt Lake City reported last week. The facility’s first of now three deaths was a woman over the age of 85 living there who died Thursday.

The other two were in a long-term care facility in Utah County, and a more extensive investigation is underway there, Dunn said.

The four deaths connected to nursing homes were patients over 60 who had underlying health conditions, she added.

All five patients died on Saturday, Dunn said. The state has the option to test for COVID-19 after death, Dunn said, but has not done so in any cases yet.

The state is testing between 2,500 and 3,000 people a day, Dunn said. The state lab can handle more than 4,000 tests a day — though a shortage of swabs, needed to perform the tests, is making it difficult to hit that point, she said. That’s short of the 7,000 tests a day Gov. Herbert has set for a statewide goal.

“We are confident in [the tests’] ability to detect disease” in testing people who have COVID-19 symptoms, Dunn said. The rate of false-positive and false-negative results go up when testing those who don’t show symptoms, she said.

Dunn said that with the increase in cases, UDOH will be calling and emailing more people to trace who has been in contact with people who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

“It is important that you call us back,” Dunn said.

For those worried about calls from people masquerading as UDOH officials trying to scam them, Dunn added, “we will never ask for any financial information, we will never ask for your Social Security number, and we certainly will never ask for money.”

Dunn said it’s up to Gov. Gary Herbert whether the current statewide stay-at-home recommendation becomes an order.

“We are constantly updating Gov. Herbert with the latest data,” Dunn said. “We are expecting everyone to stay at home.”

Dunn said that if the statewide recommendation, which is an order in some counties, is lifted too soon, there could be a resurgence of higher case numbers.

“We have heard of national shortages” of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, Dunn said, but Utah hasn’t seen those shortages locally.

A claim that the state has taken over distribution of those drugs — often touted by President Donald Trump — is “a miscommunication,” Dunn said.

As medical equipment is distributed, Dunn said, rural hospitals are receiving “the same effort of supplies and PPE that the Wasatch Front hospitals are.”

Sean P. Means

1 p.m.: Death toll in Utah up to 13

Thirteen people have died in Utah from COVID-19, the Utah Department of Health reported Monday — five more than had been reported before the weekend.

The overall number of cases is at 1,675, up 70 cases from Sunday’s figures, UDOH reported. There have been 138 people hospitalized for COVID-19, up 14 from Sunday’s tally.

The low number of new cases is likely a reflection of low testing over the weekend, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said at a Monday news conference.

Overall, 33,394 people in Utah have been tested for coronavirus, according to state records. That’s an increase of 2,502 people since Sunday’s report.

Sean P. Means

12:15 p.m.: University of Utah closes the Union after a positive test

The University of Utah has closed its student Union after someone there tested positive for the coronavirus.

The school tweeted about the case Monday morning, referring to the individual only as “a building occupant.” The Union will now be shut down until further notice.

Previously, the U. had shut down its library. And the school has seen at least 18 staffers or students contract the disease.

Courtney Tanner

11:30 a.m.: Utah’s senators are out of quarantine

Washington • Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney are free from quarantine after spending two weeks at home.

Both Utah Republicans had sheltered at home after learning that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., had contracted the coronavirus. Their two-week quarantine, as advised by doctors, ended Friday.

Lee and Romney had flown to Utah on March 22 in a private jet Romney chartered to get them home. Both had close contact with Paul days earlier, though neither showed symptoms. Romney had tested negative for COVID-19.

Lee is remaining in his home, his office said.

Romney, who had stayed in his residence in Holladay, chartered a plane over the weekend to fly to Florida where his wife, Ann, had been staying while he was in quarantine. Ann Romney has multiple sclerosis and it was safer for the senator to fly to her, Romney’s office said.

The Senate is scheduled to convene on April 20.

Thomas Burr

11 a.m.: Dems call on the governor to issue a statewide order

The Utah House Democratic Caucus called Monday for Gov. Gary Herbert to issue a statewide stay-at-home order similar to those already in effect in at least 41 states and Washington, D.C.

“Utahns have done some great things so far in responding to the threat of the coronavirus,” they said in a statement Monday. “But we must do more.”

They asked for a “stronger, clearer message” to state residents about the threat of COVID-19 “to our health, our welfare, and our economic well-being” and noted that the U.S. surgeon general has called on governors that have not yet issued stay-at-home orders to do so.

“We know this pandemic will likely kill hundreds or thousands of people in our state,” they continued. “We do not believe that the current voluntary Stay-Safe-Stay-Home program is as effective in slowing the spread of this virus as an explicit stay-at-home order.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has also called for a statewide stay-at-home order. As has Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

The state has urged Utahns to voluntarily social distance, but there are no penalties in the state directive for people who don’t follow that guidance.

There are currently stay-at-home orders in several of Utah’s 29 counties that do include penalties: Davis, Salt Lake, Summit, Tooele and Wasatch. The Weber-Morgan Health Department became the latest to issue an order on Friday.

Taylor Stevens

10:40 a.m.: Facebook offering grants to Utah County businesses affected by COVID-19

Small businesses in Utah County struggling because of the pandemic have a chance at a piece of more than $100,000 in grant money, courtesy of Facebook.

The social-media platform is vowing to offer $100 million in grants and ad credits to up to 30,000 small businesses in 30 countries. So far, Facebook has listed 28 U.S. communities for the first round of grants, and Eagle Mountain — where Facebook has a data center — is on the list.

“This is a critical injection to help local small businesses who need it most, so they can keep the lights on and help pay their employees,” said a release announcing Facebook’s program.

To qualify, a small business must have between two and 50 employees, have been in business for over a year, have experienced business challenges because of COVID-19, and be in or near a location where Facebook operates.

To sign up for notifications, go to facebook.com/business/boost/grants.

Facebook is also setting up a system on its platform for people to find digital gift cards and create personal fundraisers for their favorite small businesses. For information, go to facebook.com/business/boost/gift-cards.

Sean P. Means

9:35 a.m.: Zions Bank helps Utah restaurants with cash back offer

Zions Bank is rewarding customers who make food purchases at qualified restaurants and catering companies during the coronavirus

Through May 31, each time customers use their Zions Bank credit card — or a gift card — to buy takeout or delivery, they will receive a 10% cash back bonus, the company announced recently on its website.

Most restaurants and caterers qualify — from mom and pops to national chains. The cash back also applies to purchases through food delivery services such as Uber Eats and DoorDash.

“Among the sectors hardest hit by the current crisis are our local restaurants,” said Scott Anderson, Zions president and CEO. “These businesses and their employees are our neighbors and friends, who are part of the deep fabric of our state.”

The Zions website includes a list of dining links to help find nearby eateries. The Salt Lake Tribune also has this updated list of Utah businesses offering takeout and delivery.

Kathy Stephenson

8:12 a.m.: Herbert pushes back on rumor of state control of anti-malaria drugs

Gov. Gary Herbert has taken to Twitter to dispel a rumor that the state of Utah is taking over distribution of an anti-malaria drug President Donald Trump often has touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

“The State has not taken over distribution of hydroxychloroquine, though high demand may be creating shortages,” Herbert tweeted Sunday night, in response to a Utah physician’s claim to the contrary.

The drugs are used as a treatment for malaria. They also are prescribed to patients with chronic conditions, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

The Utah Board of Pharmacy voted on March 24 to draft regulations to limit distribution of the two drugs, to discourage panic buying and to keep the drugs available for those chronic sufferers.

The accusation that the state has “taken over” distribution came from a physician who identifies himself on Twitter as “Dr. Bill.” He has made the same claim on “The Debbie Aldrich Show,” a Utah-based conservative podcast on which he is an occasional contributor. (Aldrich ran unsuccessfully for the Third District Congressional seat in 2017, in the special election when Rep. Jason Chaffetz resigned.)

Herbert, in his tweet, linked to the Utah Department of Health’s suggestions on treatment for COVID-19. Those guidelines point out that there are no Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for COVID-19, and that there have been small, preliminary studies suggesting that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine “may be beneficial to present lung complications.”

The UDOH guidelines recommend that if a doctor does prescribe the drugs, he or she should do so in small doses, to avoid overdose risks and limit side effects.

Interest in the drugs peaked in mid-March when Trump touted the possibility of those drugs to treat coronavirus — a claim he repeated in a White House news conference Saturday and again on Sunday. One of Trump’s advisers, Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has often downplayed the role such medications might have in the pandemic.

Sean P. Means