Live coronavirus updates for Thursday, April 9: Utah County sees surge in domestic violence 911 calls; golf course in South Jordan set to re-open Friday

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Playgrounds are closed off at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City due to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, April 7, 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 Thursday, April 9. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]


8:42 p.m.: South Jordan golf course to re-open with some limitations

A golf course in South Jordan will re-open Friday, but with limitations.

Mulligans Golf and Games, which closed on March 29, announced on Thursday a bevy of precautions and augmentations to its services while deciding to open its doors again.

Normal business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., have been reinstated. Golfers can get a tee time on the golf course or the foot golf course. The driving range is also open.

But mini golf and the batting cages will remain closed, as will the clubhouse and restaurant. Mulligans will also not offer any rentals, including those for golf carts, clubs and soccer balls.

The venue made clear that social distancing guidelines “must be adhered to at all times.” That means golfers should wait until the tee clears before moving forward on the course. If someone disobeys the social distancing rules, they may be asked to leave.

Those who want to use the ball machines must pay with their credit cards. An attendant will be on hand to sanitize the machine between every use and to call the next person forward.

Additionally, bathrooms will be cleaned hourly. “This decision was reached only after many parties were confident that the precautions taken limit exposure to COVID-19, while offering a mental health outlet for our residents,” the venue said in a statement.

— Alex Vejar

6:08 p.m.: Navajo Nation issues 57-hour curfew

The Navajo Nation has issued a 57-hour curfew over the weekend after President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer went into self-quarantine due to being exposed on Tuesday to an individual diagnosed with COVID-19.

Nez and Lizer are “feeling fine,” per a news release, but are going into self-quarantine as a precaution.

The curfew will start Friday at 8 p.m. and lift Monday at 5 a.m. Essential employees are exempt from the curfew, but are required to carry documentation from their employer. Violators of the curfew are subject to a fine of up $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail.

Nez said in a statement that during a visit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Arizona National Guard, both he and Lizer “came into contact with several first responders, one of whom later tested positive for the virus.” Both wore gloves and masks during that visit and others.

— Alex Vejar

5:45 p.m.: Utah County 911 sees 75% increase in domestic violence calls

Utah County has experienced a significant increase in domestic violence 911 calls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie posted on Twitter that the county has seen a 75% increase in domestic violence calls, as reported during meeting Thursday for Utah County 911 dispatch.

“This is not good news and exactly why we are trying to consider all aspects of public health in our response to COVID-19,” he wrote.

In the Utah County Sheriff Department’s coverage area — accounting for about 75,000 residents in both unincorporated areas and cities that contract the department — 23 domestic violence calls came in February and 37 the next month through March 30, public information officer Sgt. Spencer Cannon said. That accounts for an almost 61% increase in those types of calls during that span.

Spencer said it’s normal to see a slight uptick in domestic violence calls when families are together more often for the holidays. But to see an increase in February and March is unusual, he said.

“It seems very likely that at least part of that is due to the restrictions in place with coronavirus COVID-19 concert and people being out of school and home more and some people being out of work,” Cannon said. “So not only it’s one parent or both parents home, but the kids are home, too, in a lot of situations.”

Concerns about victims of domestic violence have risen as people self-isolate, because staying at home with an abuser and dealing with the stress of pandemic can lead to increased tension and acts of violence.

Advocates for domestic violence victims wanted people to know that shelters are staying open and resources for help are still available.

The Salt Lake City police department recently reported a 30% increase in domestic violence related calls to 911 dispatchers.

— Alex Vejar

3:40 p.m.: Food trucks will serve commercial truckers at Utah rest stops

Food trucks will be allowed to sell burgers, barbecue and other fare at Utah rest stops as a way to help feed the country’s commercial truck drivers during COVID-19.

Commercial activity in the federally funded interstate rights-of-way typically is prohibited, said Danny Page, the director of maintenance and facilities for the Utah Department of Transportation.

Earlier this week, however, the Federal Highway Administration announced it would temporarily allow states to have mobile food vendors there because truckers have found it difficult to get meals along their routes.

Statewide health restrictions prohibit restaurants in Utah from offering sit-down dining. And a ban on mass gatherings has also made it difficult for food trucks to survive.

This food truck allowance is not meant for the general public, said Page.

“We see this as a service for truckers and don’t want large groups congregating at the rest areas.”

Gov. Gary Herbert has asked Utahns to stay home and not travel outside their county to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Page said UDOT is working with the Food Truck League and the Utah Food Truck Association to schedule the food vendors at rest areas along major interstates, including Interstate 15, I-80 and I-70.

“America’s commercial truck drivers are working day and night during this pandemic to ensure critical relief supplies are being delivered to our communities,” federal highway Administrator Nicole R. Nason said in a news release. “It is critical to make sure truck drivers continue to have access to food services while they’re on the job serving our nation during these challenging times.”

— Kathy Stephenson

2:50 p.m.: U. library wants your stories, photos during the crisis

Those who want to be an official part of recorded history during the COVID-19 crisis can do so with the help of a new initiative.

The University of Utah launched the Utah COVID-19 Digital Collection project in an effort to gather stories and photographs from Utahns who want to share their experiences dealing with the pandemic.

The project’s main purpose is documenting the response to the coronavirus from the U. as well as the the state at large. It will include photographs and stories. Those willing to share can submit items, which will be publicly available in the Marriott Digital Library.

— Alex Vejar

2:35 p.m.: Park City cancels Savor the Summit dinner party — again

Savor the Summit, Park City’s premier outdoor dinner party, has been canceled for a second time.

This go-round, it’s the coronavirus that is stopping the annual event — which features one long dining table down Main Street.

The Park City Restaurant Association announced last fall that the party would take a one-year break to reorganize.

In January, the association announced that the community had “rallied” and the event would be held June 27. It would include nearly two dozen area restaurants. Takeout is still available.

But Savior the Summit was scrapped Thursday, due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions on restaurants — which are prohibited from having dine-in customers.

“While choosing to cancel this year’s Savor the Summit event was incredibly difficult, we know it is ultimately what is best for the health and safety of our Park City community,” said the association executive director, Ginger Wicks. “We are grateful for the understanding of our participating restaurants, as well as dinner guests who were looking forward to what would have been another landmark event.”

— Kathy Stephenson

2:25 p.m.: Herbert says White House chief of staff was supposed to call him but didn’t

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows asked to speak with him but then never called.

Bloomberg news service reported Wednesday that Meadows had tried to persuade Republican governors who had not issued mandatory shelter-in-place orders to do so.

Herbert said he had been told to expect a call from Meadows, too.

“He was going to call. He did not call,” Herbert said. “I have no idea why. He has called before. He has my cellphone number.”

The Utah governor said he assumes a call he had with Anthony Fauci, the lead scientific expert on the White House’s coronavirus advisory group, superseded whatever Meadows wanted to discus.

While Herbert hasn’t issued a shelter-in-place order, he has contended that his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directives and moves to close some venues and businesses have been effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have a statewide directive we expect the state of Utah to follow,” Herbert said, “and guess what — they are.” “I think Dr. Fauci is very pleased with what we’re doing, the results we are getting."

— Nate Carlisle

2:15 p.m.: Utah farmers dump milk and adapt as demand for dairy products shifts

As schools shutter and restaurants close, the demand for milk and other dairy products has shifted. But cows continue to produce milk.

The pandemic has forced many farmers across the U.S. — including some in Utah — to pour large quantities of milk down the drain, said officials with Dairy West, which represents the industry in the Beehive State and other Western areas.

“There have been some loads of milk in Utah that have been diverted or disposed of,” Kristi Spence, senior vice president of marketing for Dairy West, said, “but farmers who have contracts with processors and cooperatives are still being paid for the milk.”

Where needed, she added, the surplus products are being donated or “properly disposed of in accordance with regulations.”

Utah has not reached the extreme levels reported recently in New York, Wisconsin and Idaho — where farmers are dumping thousands of gallons of milk a day.

Idaho ships much of its product overseas, Spence said, noting that milk exports are down 15% to 20%.

Utah also is in a better position than its neighbor because it has a variety of processing plants where farmers can send fluid milk for yogurt, cheese, ice cream and shelf-stable milk production.

Still, Utah farmers are trying to adapt. In recent weeks the industry has:

• Reduced the number of individual 8-ounce milk cartons produced for schools and instead provided districts with larger containers for weekly lunch pickups.

• Produced more cheese, yogurt and butter for food banks.

• Repackaged bulk-size products intended for food service into smaller containers for retail.

• Supplied hospitals with more cheese sticks, yogurt and other products to feed front line health workers.

For several weeks, grocery stores had put limits on the amount of milk customers could buy, Spence said, but that was due to abnormal shopping behaviors, not a product shortage.

“Today the shelves should be restocked and the supply chain is much more stable,” she said. “This week, we’ve asked the stores to remove those limits.”

Still, farmers are hurting. The price of dairy has dropped from $20 per 100 pounds of milk to about $12, she said. The break-even point is $16.

“Dairy farmers are doing their job and producing high-quality products,” she said, but the coronavirus “has impacted every facet of their business.”

— Kathy Stephenson

1:55 p.m.: Buy your season tickets to sports teams, the arts, Herbert says

Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday said people should go ahead and buy tickets to sporting or arts events scheduled for later this year.

Since the state and local government began closing businesses and encouraging people to remain at home, Herbert has encouraged people to support industries suffering during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, on what was supposed to be opening day for the Salt Lake Bees baseball team, he singled out sports and the arts, telling their fans and patrons to go ahead and buy individual or season tickets.

“It’s going to help them prepare for the next season coming up,” Herbert said.

1:45 p.m.: Utah working on data showing racial, ethnic coronavirus trends

State epidemiologist Angela Dunn on Thursday said Utah is trying to compile data on how many racial and ethnic minorities have contracted the coronavirus.

Dunn said her office began extracting that information Wednesday but found that data was incomplete.

“So we’re looking at ways to fill in the gaps,” Dunn said.

States like Louisiana have found that African Americans represent a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Dunn said Utah’s total numbers are small compared to other states, making it difficult to spot trends. But Utah Department of Health staffers were working on compiling what data there is.

“We’re hoping by next week we’ll be able to show that data publicly,” Dunn said.

— Nate Carlisle

1:35 p.m.: Positive cases rise to nearly 2,000; no new deaths

Utah’s coronavirus death toll stood at 13 for the third straight day, the Utah Department of Health reported Thursday.

The total number of coronavirus cases rose by 7% to 1,976.

It’s the third straight day the percentage increase was held to single digits. The department reported 168 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. That number was 158 on Wednesday.

— Nate Carlisle

11:35 a.m.: Salt Lake County’s stay-at-home order in effect until at least May 1

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson announced Thursday that the county would extend its stay-at-home order through May 1.

Wilson told The Salt Lake Tribune previously that she was considering extending that mandate from its current April 13 end date through “perhaps Memorial Day or longer.” The May 1 decision will better align the county’s rules with those in other counties, she explained during a weekly news conference briefing.

The new order will largely mirror the current order, Wilson said. Essential businesses will be allowed to keep operating, while the businesses closed by the stay-at-home order — including hair and nail salons, spas and massage parlors, as well as swimming pools, playgrounds, recreation centers, movie theaters, bowling alleys and social clubs — will remain shuttered.

— Taylor Stevens

11:30 a.m.: Capitol Reef closes

The last of Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks announced Thursday that it, too, would close because of coronavirus concerns.

Capitol Reef, located about 220 miles south of Salt Lake City, is closed to all visitors “effective immediately.” That means no hiking, camping, backpacking or canyoneering, according to a news release.

State Route 24, which runs through the park, is still open, but stopping isn’t allowed.

The park had restricted access before the shuttering Thursday, including closing its scenic drive on Monday, but some trails and restrooms remained open. Some trails will remain open and law enforcement will be at the park.

— Paighten Harkins

10:40 a.m.: Survey tracks residents and businesses that didn’t pay rent in Utah

A new survey suggests that retail spaces and older offices buildings were among the Utah commercial real estate sectors hardest hit in late March.

Roughly half of the owners and managers of retail properties totaling some 5 million square feet of shop space in Utah said their tenants did not pay April rent, according to a newly released poll by Cushman & Wakefield, a Salt Lake City-based commercial real estate brokerage.

Nearly 5% of landlords overseeing newer, better-located office spaces in the Salt Lake Valley — known in the industry as Class A buildings — reported their tenants falling behind on rent this month, but that number was four times higher — at 20% — for owners of Class B offices, which are generally older.

Owners and managers of some 30,000 apartment units in Utah reported that between 7% and 9% of tenants had missed payments in April, the survey found, with rentals units in urban areas faring better than suburban properties.

Gov. Gary Herbert last week issued a temporary moratorium on evictions statewide and called for rent deferrals until May 15 for those directly affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Communities with high numbers of students sent home in the pandemic — Salt Lake City, Orem and Provo — are seeing above-average rent delinquencies compared to the rest of the market, the Cushman & Wakefield poll found.

— Tony Semerad

10 a.m.: Utah Food Bank helped almost twice as many people in March

More than 68,000 people sought help from the Utah Food Bank in March, officials said Wednesday.

That’s nearly double the 36,000 who picked up items in February. And many of those March patrons were “first time recipients” of the emergency assistance, said President and CEO Ginette Bott.

Thousands of Utahns were laid off in March due to the coronavirus. Employees in restaurants, bars, hotels, hair salons and other service industry businesses were affected most.

In addition, the lag time between losing jobs and getting unemployment benefits has left many without money to buy food, Bott said. “So many people have been impacted, who have never had to ask for these services before.”

Bott expects the need to continue until the pandemic wanes.

To get food assistance, clients can visit a stand-alone pantry in communities throughout the state or find a weekly or monthly mobile site in their neighborhood.

Bott said the Utah Food Bank website is the best place to find the nearest location. People also can dial 211 and an operator will help them determine the closest site using their ZIP code.

"The biggest mistake people in crisis can make,” she said, “is not asking for help.”

The food bank usually asks clients to fill out a form when picking up items, but, due to social distancing, the distribution process is now a no-contact drive-thru service and staffers will write down the necessary information.

Clients will be asked to give the number of household members, she said, “so we can give the correct amount of food.”

The agency also is interested in the number of children age 18 and younger.

For those who want to help fill the pantry shelves for those in need, Bott said, a monetary donation is the best way.

With the agency’s buying power, it can purchase nearly $8 worth of food for every $1 donated.

After five children were sickened last week — and two were hospitalized — from eating donated candy infused with THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, the Utah Food Bank has changed procedures to help ensure that never happens again.

It will have its paid staffers, who are more accustomed to look for problematic donations, sort through them before sending them along to volunteers at churches and other pantries that distribute the products.

— Kathy Stephenson

7 a.m.: Another 33,000 Utahns have filed for unemployment

Unemployment claims in Utah have jumped higher for a fourth straight week due to COVID-19, with a record 33,076 state residents seeking jobless benefits. The previous week, 28,532 Utahns filed.

The volume of claims for the week ending April 4 was more than six times higher than the worst week during the Great Recession and part of nearly 6.6 million who filed for unemployment last week across the country.

An almost identical number of U.S. workers filed the week prior to that, which was itself a record — for a total of 16.8 million Americans thrown out of work or furloughed since mid-March when the pandemic first began hitting labor markets, according to the Labor Department.

Fully 82,500 Utahns have lost jobs, been furloughed or seen their pay cut over that same time as social distancing efforts has closed countless businesses and slowed commerce to a near-halt.

State officials have reported job losses continue to spread from hospitality and food-services industries to retail, office work and other sectors.

— Tony Semerad