Live coronavirus updates for Monday, April 20: Salt Lake City is not ready to begin loosening restrictions; Utah reports one new death, which occurred out of state

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Leo J. Muir Elementary School in Bountiful, Friday April 17, 2020

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It’s Monday, April 20. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]


3:20 p.m.: Front-line medical workers to receive free subs in Kaysville

The Subway on Kaysville’s Main Street will give away 85 six-inch subs to medical professionals on the front line of the coronavirus battle on Friday.

Local musician Wood Carver donated money to the franchise after he received generous tips from fans watching his streamed performances and decided to pay it forward.

Carver contacted his friend and Subway franchise owner Jordan Olsen, saying he wanted to donate the money he made for meals to medical professionals. Olsen agreed, and they created the campaign “Subs for Scrubs.”

“I wanted to donate the tips from my performance to a local business,” Carver said in a news release. “My buddy Jordan and his wife had just purchased their Subway restaurant last fall and now were struggling through this pandemic. I thought I could help by buying a few hundred dollars’ worth of subs that I could give away to medical workers to say thanks for their hard work.”

The two also created a GoFundMe page for the cause and hope to receive donations to continue providing subs to front-line medical workers during the pandemic.

“We’ll keep giving away free subs as long as there are funds in our GoFundMe account to do so,” Olsen said in a news release. “For every $10 we raise, we can give subs to four medical workers.”

Olsen isn’t the only sandwich shop owner donating food. Former U.S. Army ranger Wyatt Batchelor owns several Jimmy John’s locations in the Denver area, and his shops are donating several hundred boxed meals to Veterans Affairs hospitals, including the VA medical center in Salt Lake City under the campaign #GotYour6.

— McKhelyn Jones

2:45 p.m.: Salt Lake City is not ready to begin loosening stay-at-home restrictions, mayor says

Utah’s capital city is not ready to begin loosening stay-at-home restrictions and other public-health measures meant to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Monday.

Areas of the city continue to see some of the highest transmission rates of the virus in Utah — one of several reasons it needs its own tailored and data-driven approach to the health crisis, the mayor said.

“Our most vulnerable communities are the most severely impacted,” Mendenhall said during a Monday teleconference with young Utah leaders. She said the city would monitor several benchmarks for the outbreak as a basis for easing its March 27 emergency order, working with newly available data from health department officials with Salt Lake County.

She said the city wants to see a lowering of transmission rates of COVID-19 to less than one to one for a period of two weeks; ensure consistent and widespread testing for the virus and availability of contract tracing for those who test positive; and see a decline in cases with no known source of exposure.

"We’ll be tracking that and we’re going to be making decisions for our residents based on what is some of the best data in the state as far as our health department goes,” Mendenhall said.

Her comments come after Gov. Gary Herbert and legislative leaders announced Friday that should key signs Utah is slowing the spread of COVID-19 continue, the state will consider relaxing some health restrictions in its “Stay Safe, Stay Home” recommendations in hopes of re-energizing the economy.

That news, along with new revisions to the state’s plan for COVID-19 economic recovery, Utah Leads Together 2.0, mean that early May could see a resumption of elective surgeries at area hospitals, reopening of gyms in some locales and a return of some in-house dining in restaurants, with social distancing.

Meeting in special session last week, the Utah Legislature created a new commission that will be responsible for balancing economic concerns with public health. The new panel is expected to offer “reasonable guidelines” to Herbert by Wednesday on ways Utah’s economy could begin returning to normal operations.

The mayor said state law grants local officials significant authority to impose restrictive health measures such as curfews and strict travel limits, “but I am not looking to do any of those.”

Instead, she said, city officials are working in close coordination with the county for a regional approach.

“Everything is more effective when we do it as a whole rather than piecemeal city to city to city,” Mendenhall added. “Just like with air quality, we know Salt Lake City doesn’t exist in a bubble. COVID-19 doesn’t respect jurisdictional boundaries.”

— Tony Semerad

1:40 p.m.: Utah is ‘flattening’ the curve, state epidemiologist says

Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist, said at a Monday news briefing that Utah is “starting to see a flattening of the curve in the last week or so,” but “we’ll definitely want to watch the next week or so.”

“There’s a lot we don’t know about this virus,” Dunn said, but if it acts like other coronaviruses, it could ease off in the hot summer months, then return in the fall, causing “a potential second wave” of infections.

“We’re going to have to rely on people isolating themselves when they are sick,” she said.

People should maintain social-distancing practices until the number of active cases decreases substantially, Dunn said. The state has recorded 3,213 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, 144 more than were reported Sunday.

The increase in the number of new cases has gone up in tandem with the increased number of tests conducted, Dunn said. The rate of confirmed new cases, compared to tests conducted, remains fairly constant at around 5%, she said.

“It is a good sign that we’re seeing a consistent number of new cases every day,” Dunn said, but officials are watching this week’s statistics before declaring it a trend.

The numbers of tests has shot up to more than 4,000 a day in the last several days, after lower rates in the week before. Dunn credited that, in part, to targeted testing of populations that hadn’t been tested sufficiently.

"The key to stopping this pandemic is making sure anybody that needs to be tested for COVID-19 can get one,” Dunn said. “We’re meeting the mark there. We’re making sure all of our jurisdictions have testing now.”

The state is working to set up more drive-thru testing sites statewide, Dunn said, and getting testing access to rural parts of Utah.

Dunn said UDOH is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Utah to start testing for COVID-19 antibodies — done with a sample of blood, rather than throat cultures.

If Utah is approaching a peak in COVID-19, as some models have predicted, Dunn said the state is prepared. She cited how hospitals have stopped performing elective surgeries, to preserve personal protective equipment.

None of the 28 deaths in Utah have taken place in a correctional facility, Dunn said. The state has investigated long-term care facilities when residents living in them have died, she said. Residents and staff have been isolated if they test positive for COVID-19, she said.

The state’s “Utah Leads Together 2.0” program to reopen the economy, Dunn said, is “a gradual relaxation.” Restrictions won’t be lifted all at once, and officials can adjust policies if cases start to spike again.

“That’s a great way to start, using data to drive how we’re doing social-distancing relaxation,” Dunn said.

— Sean P. Means

1 p.m.: Utah reports another death

Another Utahn has died from COVID-19, the Utah Department of Health announced Monday — bringing the state’s death toll from the disease to 28.

The death recorded Monday was Allen Dee Pace, who contracted the virus while serving a senior mission in the Detroit area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although he died outside Utah, he is counted in the state’s total.

Pace, who was from Box Elder County, was over 60 and was hospitalized before his death. His death is the first fatality recorded in the Bear River Health Department, which covers Utah’s three northernmost counties: Box Elder, Cache and Rich.

This is the seventh straight day UDOH has announced another person in Utah has died from COVID-19. The state has recorded 3,213 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, 144 more than were reported Sunday.

There have been 268 Utahns hospitalized from COVID-19, UDOH reported Monday. That’s nine more than were reported Sunday.

Also, as of Monday, 68,311 people have been tested for the coronavirus. That figure is 4,756 more tests than were reported Sunday.

Salt Lake County reported 1,671 cases, 140 hospitalizations and 15 deaths — just over half of the state’s totals in those statistics.

— Sean P. Means

10 a.m.: Donation to The Salvation Army can help pay for food, utilities

The Salvation Army — which helps with food, rent and utility assistance in times of crisis — has seen an increase in requests, the organization announced, and is seeking monetary donations to help those in need.

“One of The Salvation Army’s missions is to render aid during emergencies, and we’re committed to providing crisis assistance to everyone who asks,” Capt. Rob Lawler, The Salvation Army’s Salt Lake City corps officer, said in a news release. “The demand is greater than we’ve ever seen and, though our resources continue to be stretched thin, we won’t stand down until the COVID-19 crisis has subsided.”

Lawler encouraged Utahns who can to donate some of their recent stimulus checks from the federal government to the organization. All donations stay in Utah and can be made online by here.

Anyone who needs help with food, rent or utility assistance can call 801-969-0526 or 855-969-0526.

— Kathy Stephenson

7:41 a.m.: Utah ranks high among states for working from home, study says

For the third of America’s workforce who can work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, Utah ranks as one of the better states to do that, according to a survey.

Utah comes in seventh among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for conditions for working from home, says the survey from the credit-reporting website WalletHub, released Monday.

The survey measured the costs, comfort and security of working from home, based on two broad metrics:

• Work environment, which measures what percentage of workers could work from home before the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how many people had the capacity to telecommute, the availability of home internet access, and how strong cybersecurity systems are. Utah ranked sixth in this area.

• Living environment, including the costs of electricity, internet access, and the square footage of the average home. Utah came in 23rd in this category.

Delaware leads the nation in capacity to telecommute, according to the study, with Washington, New Hampshire, Colorado and Georgia rounding out the top five. Alaska comes in last in the survey, followed by Hawaii, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

— Sean P. Means