Live coronavirus updates for Wednesday, April 15: Tech sector imports millions of needed medical supplies

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, center, looks on as a plane filled with personal protective equipment is unloaded at the Delta Hanger Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at the Salt Lake International Airport. The first of several planes filled with personal protective equipment touched down in Utah, delivering masks and eye protection for health care workers throughout the state. "We are in a wartime environment. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

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It’s Wednesday, April 15. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]


9:40 p.m.: State getting out the word on the coronavirus — in 16 languages

The state is now providing information on the coronavirus in 16 languages.

The effort, spearheaded by the Utah National Guard, launched online late Wednesday night. Resources are housed at coronavirus.utah.gov/multilingual-resources.

The languages provided are Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, French, Karen (for those from Myanmar), Kinyarwanda (for those from Rwanda), Korean, Mongolian, Persian-Farsi, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tongan and Vietnamese.

For each one, there are documents explaining symptoms, social distancing, hand washing best practices and what to do if you feel sick.

— Courtney Tanner

8:30 p.m.: Technology leaders bring in plane from Shanghai with protective equipment

States across the nation have struggled to find enough protective equipment for medical staff during the coronavirus pandemic. But on Wednesday, Utah got some help with that.

Leaders of the state’s technology sector chartered a plane filled with millions of needed items that landed in Salt Lake City, coming from Shanghai.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted about the plane’s arrival, saying it the first of many, and posted pictures showing boxes of face masks. He called it “a Dunkirk moment,” referring to the infamous battle in World War II.

The supplies were imported by private companies in Silicon Slopes, primarily including DOMO. The sector has also started TestUtah.com, where residents can check their symptoms and see if they need to be tested for the virus.

— Courtney Tanner

4:55 p.m.: Utah prison inmates sewing masks for other inmates, staff members

Utah prison officials this week began giving inmates and corrections workers face masks to wear amid concerns about spreading coronavirus.

The masks were sewn by inmates who are part of the Utah Correctional Industries program, a manufacturing area where inmates make items such as furniture, license plates and embroidered items. Those who work in the sewing shop usually spend their time making inmate uniforms, but prison officials say they’ve been working instead on sewing enough masks to give two face coverings to every prisoner in both the Draper and Gunnison prisons, as well as staff members.

There has not been any confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Utah prisons, but a halfway house operated by the Department of Corrections has had nine offenders who are ill with the coronavirus. Prison officials have declined to say which halfway house that is, but said Wednesday that it housed 57 residents as of two weeks ago.

— Jessica Miller

3:40 p.m.: Annual Earth Day strike moves online

Utah climate activists are still planning to hold their annual strike on Earth Day — only it will be online this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The event, organized by high schoolers and college students, will be held for three days, starting April 22. And author Terry Tempest Williams will kick it off with a keynote address.

“Local speakers will give perspective on the past, present, and future of environmental movements in Utah, with each day of events following a theme: April 22nd, Strike; April 23, Divest; and April 24, Vote!” according to a news release about the event.

It will be streamed at UtahEarthDay.org.

— Courtney Tanner

2:25 p.m.: New website helps consumers identify fraud related to COVID-19 aid

Utahns who suspect they are a target of financial fraud involving the federal stimulus and other coronavirus aid programs can check out a new website, at https://fraudsquad.utah.gov/coronavirus.html.

The state Department of Commerce is promising to update information on the page regularly to help residents identify potential scams, as part of a broader effort to educate consumers and encourage them to report suspected COVID-19-related fraud.

— Tony Semerad

2:20 p.m.: Hero shopping hours at Sam’s Club

Starting on Sunday morning, Sam’s Club will have special shopping hours for health care workers and first responders who are not club members. The “Associate Appreciation Shopping Hours” run Sunday from 8 to 10 a.m.

Sam’s Club also announced that in order to protect its employees and customers, all shoppers will be provided with and highly encouraged to wear masks while they are shopping at the club during this time.

More details are available at the Sam’s Club corporate blog.

— Zoi Walker

2 p.m.: Self-employed and gig workers can apply for unemployment benefits

The state of Utah now has a way for the self-employed and independent contractors sometimes called gig workers who have lost their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic to get unemployment benefits for the first time.

Kevin Burt, unemployment insurance director at the state Department of Workforce Services, announced Wednesday that those residents, who were previously ineligible, can now receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as CARES.

The aid goes to those who have lost income due to COVID-19 and who are either self-employed or gig workers; those who lack a 15-month job history to qualify for typical unemployment benefits; and those who worked for an employer that usually doesn’t pay unemployment taxes, such as churches.

Also eligible are those who have been laid off, furloughed or seen their pay cut because they were diagnosed with COVID-19, have someone in their household infected and people who’ve been denied unemployment aid for other reasons.

Those who qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will also qualify for the $600 weekly stipend now being added to traditional state jobless benefits under CARES, Burt said.

For more details on eligibility and applying for the new assistance, visit jobs.utah.gov/covid19. Applicants can expect a wait of 21-30 days for their claims to be processed.

— Tony Semerad

1:50 p.m.: Utah announces new grants to support child care centers

Utah child care centers can now apply for state grant funds to help them remain open while enrollment numbers plummet as more families stay home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Tracy Gruber, executive director of the Utah Office of Child Care, said Wednesday that Utah’s child care industry has been hit hard in the last month. Gruber said that 38% of child care centers have temporarily closed, and 13,000 child care spots have been lost in the last month.

“Utah’s child care system is critical to Utah’s economy,” she said. “It’s going to be critical when people return to work when it’s over.”

Gruber said the state will now offer grants to child care facilities that have remained open, to help them pay bills and keep staff on the payroll and to cover costs associated with increased safety protocols.

“There are people in Utah who continue to work and continue to need child care,” she said, “and we know childcare can be delivered safely.”

Those child care centers who want to apply for a grant can do so at jobs.utah.gov.

— Jessica Miller

1:30 p.m.: Utah reports another death and 130 new cases

Another Utahn has died from COVID-19, the Utah Department of Health reported Wednesday, bringing the state’s death toll from the coronavirus to 20.

State epidemiologist Angela Dunn said Wednesday that the latest death was a man over 60 who lived in Salt Lake County. He died at a hospital, and had underlying health conditions.

The state has confirmed 2,542 cases statewide, 130 more than the 2,412 reported Tuesday. It’s the highest number of new confirmed cases since April 9.

Wednesday’s report shows 221 people have been hospitalized, eight more than the 213 on the state’s tally Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, 47,614 people in Utah have been tested for the coronavirus. That’s 1,138 more than the 46,476 that UDOH reported on Tuesday.

Dunn said state health officials have been able to identify how infected Utahns got the virus in all but 15% of cases. They’ve determined that 70% of Utah’s cases were caused by contact with someone else who has the coronavirus.

Eleven percent are travel-related, and 4% are health care-associated, such as people who were infected at long-term care facilities.

— Jessica Miller

12:55 p.m.: Backcountry raises donations to provide masks for advocates for the homeless

A Park City company has raised $44,000 in donations, which will pay for 20,000 face masks to be given to Utah charities that help the homeless.

Backcountry, the outdoor apparel and gear company, announced Wednesday that the money raised on its donation platform will go toward the non-medical grade masks. Those masks will be donated, the company said, to Utah homeless organizations, including: The Road Home, the Fourth Street Clinic, Volunteers of America Utah, Catholic Community Services and The Rescue Mission.

The company has also donated 400 apparel kits to support University of Utah health care workers. The kits include a daypack, fleece top and pair of jogger pants.

Last week, the company announced it had donated 9,000 masks to the Department of Homeless Services for the city of New York, and made another 1,000 for its warehouse workers in Utah and Virginia.

— Sean P. Means

12:15 p.m.: Downtown Farmers Market seeks donations

The nonprofit group that runs Salt Lake City’s Downtown Farmers Market hopes to raise $50,000 to help cover the cost of operating the annual summer event.

On Tuesday, it sent out an email — with “Help Us Save the Market” in the subject line — asking for donations via a link on its website.

“Operating safely and responsibly during the pandemic requires extensive changes to our markets,” Alison Einerson, executive director of Urban Food Connections, said. “These changes will significantly reduce revenue and increase our operating costs.”

Last week, Einerson said if the summer market is allowed in 2020, it will be scaled back significantly to include only farmers. Ready-to-eat foods would be limited, and there would be no arts and crafts.

The fees paid by those vendors and sponsors have typically covered the operating costs of the Saturday market at Pioneer Park — as well as the Tuesday Harvest Market and the Rio Grande Winter Market.

“Despite these challenges, we are committed to connecting our community with local food from producers they know and trust," Einerson said. "We are a critical lifeline for regional farmers and producers who are the backbone of our local food system. But, now, we need your help to preserve our iconic farmers markets and our organization.”

— Kathy Stephenson

11 a.m.: Chamber offers grants to businesses in Utah’s rural counties

The Salt Lake Chamber is offering $500,000 in assistance grants to Utah’s rural and minority-run small businesses to help them weather coronavirus-related losses until they can get aid through the federal stimulus.

These Mainstreet Preservation Grants will be for up to $5,000 apiece, made to businesses with 50 workers or less located in Utah’s smaller counties. The grants are being paid for with a donation from Workers Compensation Fund Insurance, officials said.

Interested businesses can apply for grants through their local chamber of commerce or county economic development department. More information at slchamber.com/mainstreet-preservation-grant.

— Tony Semerad

10:40 a.m.: Here’s how stores (except grocery stores) took a hit last month

Retail sales in the U.S. took their largest one-month plunge ever in March, according to U.S. Census Bureau.

Initial estimates of U.S. retail and food-services sales for last month were $483.1 billion, down 8.7% from February’s sales of $529.3 billion.

A U.S. Census statement released with the numbers attributed the decline to businesses being forced by events surrounding COVID-19 to either limit operations or close.

The monthly drop was larger than the prior record of a 4.3% decline, set in November 2008 as the Great Recession was just beginning to loom.

But even as stay-at-home orders imposed last month depressed retail activity at many stores, auto dealerships and gasoline stations — all key pieces of that monthly retail number — grocery stores and others considered “essential” saw their sales rise steeply, softening some of the month’s overall decline.

“This is a market of haves and have-nots,” Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said in a statement. “The haves are the stores that remain open with lines out the doors to buy daily necessities while the have-nots are the stores that have closed and are taking the brunt of the impact of the pandemic.”

Sales of clothing, furniture and sporting goods all fell dramatically, down in March by 50.5%, 26.8% and 23.3%, respectively, the federation said.

Grocers, on the other hand, saw their retail activity up 25.6% last month, while sales at general merchandise stores offering both food and household products and at health and personal-care retailers, including pharmacies, were up 6.4% and 4.3%, respectively.

Online and other non-store sales also rose in March, by 3.1%.

— Tony Semerad

10:30 a.m.: The public gets masks for Davis County inmates

People who are incarcerated at the Davis County jail now have homemade face masks to wear, thanks to donations from the local community.

The Davis County Sheriff’s Office asked for the public to provide sewn masks for their inmates as concerns about the coronavirus spreading has increased. On Wednesday, they posted a video of inmates wearing the masks as they sprayed down mattresses with cleaner.

"The individuals in our care and custody are very appreciative of the donated homemade masks," the sheriff's office said in a tweet. "They're doing extensive cleaning — including cleaning mattresses daily — during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep everyone in the jail safe and healthy."

The sheriff’s office included a photo of a half dozen inmates posed shoulder-to-shoulder in their masks. While they encourage social distancing, officials said, the inmates “got excited about being in a photo for the public to see.”

Davis County has had one jail employee test positive for the coronavirus, but none of the inmates have been affected. The Salt Lake County jail is the only lock-up facility in Utah that has reported that the virus has reached its inmate population. As of April 7, the facility had six inmates and seven staffers test positive with the coronavirus.

— Jessica Miller

8:50 a.m.: How Utah’s National Guard is helping

The Utah National Guard is doing its part during the coronavirus pandemic, deploying 81 soldiers and airmen to support state and local health departments.

Here’s where Guard members have been working, according to a news release:

• Twenty linguists from the Utah National Guard’s 300th Military Intelligence Brigade translated 17 documents from the Utah Public Health Department into 15 languages.

• The 300th also assigned 20 soldiers to assist the Utah Department of Health’s COVID-19 task force with “contact tracing,” interviewing people who have been in contact with those who have the coronavirus.

• Two members of the 85th Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team were appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert to assist his “Utah Leads Together” economic response plan.

• About 20 members of the Air National Guard’s 151st Air Refueling Wing assisted Charity Anywhere, a Utah nonprofit run by Gordon and Susan Carter. The airmen loaded humanitarian aid onto a C-130 cargo plane from the Ecuadorian air force.

• A dozen parachute riggers and other members of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Camp Williams are making 2,000 face masks for Guard members — in compliance with recent Department of Defense guidance about the use of face masks.

• Seven soldiers and airmen are supporting the state’s Emergency Operations Center and other local agencies, aiding in logistics planning and augmentation, analytical planning and operations.

“We stand ready to help our state, by helping our neighbors,” said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Turley, adjutant general for the Utah Army National Guard.

— Sean P. Means

8:45 a.m: Two ways to help first responders

Utahns can help feed first responders and front line workers by donating to “relief pack” programs.

At ReliefPacks.org, a $25 donation feeds six to eight people with prepared food from Costa Vida, Mo’Bettahs Hawaiian Style or R&R BBQ. The program is sponsored by Mercato Partners, a Salt Lake City-based growth firm, in partnership with the Community Foundation of Utah.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit launched its First Responder Relief Packs program this week at dickeys.com. Customers can add either five or 10 pulled pork sandwiches to their online order and the national restaurant chain will match the donation.

— Zoi Walker

8:40 a.m.: Domino’s to donate 15,200 pizzas to Utah workers

Domino’s stores along the Wasatch Front will donate 15,200 pizzas this week to help feed medical personnel, schoolchildren, grocery store employees and other workers, the company announced Wednesday.

“We realize that there is a great deal of hardship and uncertainty at this time,” said Chuck Riddle, a Salt Lake City-area Domino’s franchisee. “Domino’s wants to do whatever it can to help, and that means spreading a little bit of joy through pizza.”

About 75 Domino’s stores throughout the Greater Salt Lake City area will each donate 200 pizzas as part of the company’s national campaign to recognize hospitals and medical centers, health departments, grocery stores and others working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to show how much we appreciate and support those who are in need of a hot meal, and those who are on the front line, working to save lives,” Riddle said. “We hope that this simple act will bring a small sense of normalcy and a smile to their faces.”

Domino’s stores nationwide will donate more than 1.2 million pizzas, or about 10 million slices.

For more information about how Domino’s employees are giving back in their neighborhoods, click here.

— Kathy Stephenson

8:30 a.m.: U. launches online gallery for artists stuck at home

Captivity breeds creativity — that’s the idea behind an online gallery being mounted by the University of Utah’s Sorenson Impact Center for artists stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The center, part of the U.’s Eccles School of Business, launched Project apART — billed as “a community-engaged art campaign” — on Wednesday, which is World Art Day.

According to a pitch on the project’s website, the campaign aims “to spark creativity and connection during quarantine. Now more than ever, we must band together to celebrate our shared humanity and resiliency."

Artists of any discipline — visual art, music, film, written work, dance, culinary, you name it — are invited to visit the project’s website, projectapart.org, for a weekly visual prompt to spark their imagination. Artists are asked to create something, then upload it each Tuesday. One artist will be chosen to be the project’s “artist of the week” and will create the next week’s prompt.

For the first week, now through April 21, the prompt comes from Salt Lake City artist Alicia Pangman. Her work, “Take Care,” depicts a cube that contains a house, flora and fauna — with a rose blooming out of the box, which symbolizes hope. “With hope that things will get better, we too can rise,” Pangman wrote in her explanation of the work.

The gallery is open for artists of all ages, and there is a section for children 14 and under. Organizers ask that all content submitted be appropriate for all ages.

For details and to submit a work, go to projectapart.org.

— Sean P. Means

8:25 a.m.: State uses its liquor delivery trucks to get medical supplies to rural Utah

Medical protective gear destined for rural communities in Utah hitched a ride on the state’s liquor delivery trucks Tuesday, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control announced on social media.

“DABC is shipping medical protective gear (PPE) to remote counties in Utah,” the agency said on Twitter. “Shipment delivered to liquor stores where local health officials can pick it up. Saves the Dept. of Health the cost of shipping this much needed equipment.”

The post @UTDABC also included photos of the packaged medical supplies.

“This is genius,” wrote one follower.

Another person, though, is miffed that liquor delivery to homes is still not allowed in Utah.

“How about shipping liquor to high risk people in the state?” the commenter asked.

— Kathy Stephenson