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Live coronavirus updates for Wednesday, April 22: Utah reports two deaths; Salt Lake City plans streets for pedestrians, cyclists

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) "The Salt and Pepper Shakers" in Bryce Canyon National Park, Monday, October 16, 2017. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, that he was supportive of President Donald Trump’s efforts to reopen national parks after coronavirus-related closures.

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 Wednesday, April 22. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]

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4:55 p.m.: Gov. Herbert supports Trump plan to reopen national parks

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday that he supports President Donald Trump’s efforts to reopen national parks after coronavirus-related closures.

The president announced those plans Wednesday at an Earth Day tree-planting event but did not provide a specific timeline for when those public spaces will reopen.

“Following our announcement last week to reopen state parks to all visitors, I support a safe and structured reopening of Utah’s five national parks, and other national recreation areas,” Herbert said in a news release. “We look forward to working with local health departments in finalizing plans to safely get people back into Utah’s own Mighty Five.”

The governor encouraged Utahns to recreate responsibly by staying close to home and practicing safe social distancing on trails, golf courses, fishing docks and overlooks. He also asked that those enjoying the outdoors stay home if they’re sick and keep parks and recreation areas clean by packing out what they bring in.

“We all play a part in keeping one another safe, whether in our communities, or recreating at a state or national park,” he said. “By working together, I believe we can safely reopen these areas.”

— Taylor Stevens

4 p.m.: SLC opening some streets to pedestrians and cyclists

Salt Lake City announced Wednesday that it will temporarily open some city streets for pedestrians and bicyclists in an effort to promote social distancing.

The first street — 500 North from about Redwood Road to 800 West — will open Thursday, while the city will announce additional routes in the next week, according to a news release.

“We’re excited to be able to give people some extra room to be able to get out and recreate at a safe distance from others,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in the release. “As it’s getting warmer, we all want to get outside. We want everyone to feel like they have the space to exercise and recreate at a safe distance from one another, and this is an innovative and easy way to do it when our main parks are so full.”

In making the decision to close some streets to most traffic, the city looked at 6,000 survey responses that asked residents for feedback on what streets they would want to use for recreation as well as connections to parks and trails, transit routes and traffic patterns and emergency and hospital routes.

The city said Wednesday that vehicle access on these streets will be maintained for local traffic and officials are asking drivers to slow down and take extra caution.

The announcement comes at a time when traffic volume has declined significantly as businesses have closed and more people work from home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Daily traffic on Interstate 15 is the lowest it’s been in 20 years, the Utah Department of Transportation told The Salt Lake Tribune recently, with about two of every five cars disappearing from the roadway compared to the same time last year. Local traffic has declined as well.

— Taylor Stevens

3:30 p.m.: Initiative will give away 10,000 meals to help restaurants

The Utah Restaurant Resurgence initiative announced Wednesday that it has purchased 10,000 meals from Utah restaurants and will be giving them out through a mobile app.

John Cook, CEO of the Provo-based 2for1 app, said in a news release his company partnered with the Gregory and Julie Cook Foundation for the campaign.

Users who download the app can claim a free meal, but Cook hopes they also will buy something extra from the menu to support the business.

“Restaurants are facing a big challenge right now, and we want to offer our support in a meaningful way,” he said in the release. “We want to keep restaurants from having to let go of employees or permanently close their doors.”

— McKhelyn Jones

3 p.m.: Families can find nutritious free meals with new tool

School districts, food banks and other organizations across Utah are offering free meals so children get the nutrition they need.

The national nonprofit, No Kid Hungry, has launched its Free Meals Finder to help families locate food distribution sites. The interactive map is available in both English and Spanish can be found at www.NoKidHungry.org/Help. It filters by location while also showing meal times.

Resources also can be found by texting the word FOOD to 877-877. Data and message rates may apply.

No Kid Hungry is a program of Share Our Strength, a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

— Kathy Stephenson

2:45 p.m.: Utah food pantries see increased demand with decreased capacity

Food pantries in Utah are experiencing an increase in demand and a decrease in volunteers, and they need more financial help for “nonfood” items such as cleaning supplies and personal protection gear, according to an informal survey conducted by Utahns Against Hunger.

“The level of increased demand itself would be stressful on pantries,” Executive Director Gina Cornia said Wednesday in a news release. “However, when you add reorganizing food distribution models, mitigating the potential of the transmission of COVID-19 during the processing and preparing of food donations, and losing a large percentage of volunteer capacity, there is serious concern about how emergency food pantries are faring.”

The survey was conducted April 1-14 and includes responses from 79 of 120 food-related organizations across the state. Of those, 44 are located along the Wasatch Front and in Washington County.

Questions covered topics on immediate needs, both food and nonfood, the rising number of clients being served, client waiting periods, organizational and community outreach strategies, and practices for food pickup and delivery. The survey showed that:

• 8 food pantries in Salt Lake County have temporarily closed as a result of the quarantine or out of concern for safety.

• 34% of pantries reported a need for volunteers. • Many pantries reduced or eliminated volunteer operations out of concern for safety.

• 31% expressed a need for food donations, especially fresh produce, dairy products and protein.• Most pantries are relying on staff to process and distribute food.

• 59% reported a need beyond food assistance such as additional funding or grants to maintain operations or to buy cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment and hygiene products. Providing additional services like SNAP/WIC enrollment also are needed.

Cornia said the small organizations are on the front lines distributing food to families and individuals every day — in most cases, without adequate resources.

“Pantries are meeting the need right now, but if they are going to continue to provide this level of relief, they’re going to need help,” she said. “Help from the community and every level of government.”

— Kathy Stephenson

1:55 p.m.: Utah announces beta test of ’Healthy Together’ app

A new mobile app, now in beta testing, will help track people who have COVID-19, and who they come into contact with, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Wednesday.

The app, called Healthy Together, will help people assess their symptoms and direct them to testing sites — and apply technology to the public health process of “contact tracing,” to see who might pass the virus on to someone else.

“Once you have this app, it tracks where you go,” Herbert said. “If someone has COVID-19, it can go back and see who you’ve bumped into.”

Using the app “will always be voluntary,” he said. Users will own their data, and can delete it at any time. Only COVID-19 data will be shared with Utah Department of Health officials. Location data will be deleted in 30 days, as will data about symptoms, he said.

“For some, we can never get over that hurdle, that concern of Big Brother watching their every movement,” Herbert said. “We’re trying to give every indication that you’re in control of your data.”

He added: “We’ll work to make it open and transparent."

The app, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn said, aims to give “a snapshot of other app users who you had significant contact with.” Data can be shared with public health workers, she said, but it will not be shared with other app users, she said.

The app allows public health investigators identify where a person with COVID-19 has been, “so we can identify other close contacts and properly advise them,” Dunn said.

Jared Allgood, a co-founder of the app developer Twenty, said the app will support public health workers in their contact-tracing work, while also protecting users’ privacy. The information gathered will only be used in a public-health scenario, Allgood said.

Twenty officially launched its location-sharing app, also called Twenty, in March 2019, and has marketed it on several college campuses. Twenty also helps users discover nearby events, and its strategic partners include Live Nation, according to a company news release.

Herbert defended the state signing a contract with Twenty to create and implement the separate Healthy Together app.

“As people design and spend money and take risks, if they come up with a better mousetrap, we should pay for it,” Herbert said.

The state has a $1.75 million contract with Twenty, plus another $1 million to further develop the app, said the governor’s spokesman, Paul Edwards.

The Healthy Together app’s survey asks the same coronavirus-related questions as the Silicon Slopes’ TestUtah website. Dunn said the two projects should compliment each other in data collection, rather than compete, because all the data will go through UDOH, which will be able to identify and consolidate any duplicate entries.

More information about the separate Healthy Together app is available at coronvirus.utah.gov.

— Sean P. Means

1:40 p.m.: Herbert says medical care in Utah is moving toward ‘business as usual’

Gov. Gary Herbert reiterated the new rules Wednesday for doctor visits and elective surgery, after ordering the lifting of a public health order and limits on everyday medical visits and procedures in the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s going to be back pretty much to business as usual,” Herbert said.

People entering a doctor’s or dentist’s office will have their temperature taken before entering, Herbert said. Some may have to wait in their car until it’s time to see the doctor or dentist.

People entering should wear masks, and should not congregate outside the facility or in the waiting room.

“This does not mean that the pandemic is over,” Herbert said, adding that data will drive state policy.

Responding to a spate of protests against social-distancing guidelines and the shutting down of non-essential businesses, Herbert said, “it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize, but they don’t have all the information. … We’re doing the best that we can with the information we have.”

He added: “You’re going to start to see things open up,” including the state parks.

Herbert said the state is carefully gathering doses of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that Fox News anchors and President Donald Trump have touted as a possible coronavirus treatment.

“We need to have a stockpile of that drug for malaria and lupus,” Herbert said. “It’s a balancing act to make sure we’re doing things that are rational and responsible.”

— Sean P. Means

12:45 p.m.: Utah reports two additional deaths

State health officials reported Wednesday that two more Utahns have died from COVID-19 since the day before — raising the state’s death toll to 34.

One of those two is believed to be a Salt Lake County resident whose death was logged by the county’s health department Tuesday, after the Utah Department of Health’s daily announcement. That resident was over 60, and had been infected with the coronavirus during a stay at a long-term care facility.

The other death was a Utah County resident, state epidemiologist Angela Dunn reported Wednesday.

The resident was over 85, and had been hospitalized before death.

Dunn said the other fatality, reported Tuesday by the Salt Lake County Health Department, also was over 85, and confirmed the patient was in a long-term care facility where an outbreak is being monitored.

UDOH reported Wednesday that it has confirmed 3,445 cases of COVID-19. That’s 149 more than were reported Tuesday.

The state has seen 288 people admitted to a hospital for COVID-19, UDOH’s Wednesday figures showed — 11 more than the day before.

The state reports 76,460 Utahns have been tested for coronavirus, which means 4,102 more tests have been processed since Tuesday.

UDOH estimates that 970 people have “recovered” from the coronavirus. By the state’s definition, “recovered” means someone was found to have symptoms of COVID-19 three weeks ago and hasn’t died from it.

— Sean P. Means

12:35 p.m.: Utah’s small rural hospitals will receive $2.6 million in federal support

Another $2.6 million is coming to Utah to help rural hospitals and to give technical aid to telemedicine services reaching rural and underserved communities as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that $1.8 million is being awarded to the Utah Department of Health to invest in supporting small rural hospitals.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement the funds would give them “critical support” in expanding telehealth programs, buying personal protective equipment and boosting capacity for testing for the virus.

Another $828,571 is being allocated by HHS to the University of Utah, which is a federally backed telehealth resource center, for technical assistance in expanding those programs.

The money is part of $150 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, set aside to help hospitals through the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program.

The U.S. Senate gave initial approval Tuesday to an additional relief package with $331 billion for payroll loans, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to boost COVID-19 testing capacity. That measure now awaits a House vote, as early as Thursday.

News of the money for rural health comes a day after HHS announced $6.2 million would reach the Beehive State for programs assisting older adults and people with disabilities as they cope with the pandemic. That will pay for additional home-delivered meals, in-home and respite care and an array of support services for families and caregivers, HHS said.

— Tony Semerad

10:05 a.m.: Artists can seek relief funds

Utah artists feeling a financial pinch because of the coronavirus can apply for emergency money through a program launched by state and Salt Lake City government agencies.

The Utah Individual Artist Emergency Funding program offers one-time grants of $500 to eligible artists who have experienced financial hardship because of the pandemic. Such hardship includes cancellation of events or exhibitions, being diagnosed with COVID-19 or having a family member diagnosed, or having work disrupted because of child care issues caused by school closures.

The program, offered by the Utah Division of Arts & Museums and the Salt Lake City Arts Council, was given preliminary approval in a unanimous vote by the Salt Lake City Council in a work session Tuesday.

The fund is limited and officials expect to run out of money before they run out of applicants. The agencies ask artists who are receiving or expect to receive full-time unemployment benefits to step aside and let applicants with a greater need go first.

To be eligible, an applicant must be a practicing artist who is 21 or older and lives primarily in Utah, can show hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and be legally able to receive taxable income in the United States (i.e., be a citizen, hold a green card or be a permanent resident). Full-time students and people who have previously received benefits from this fund are not eligible.

The first round of applications is now open; the deadline is April 28 at midnight. A second round has not yet been scheduled.

Go to artsandmuseums.utah.gov for the application and more details about how to apply.

— Sean P. Means

10 a.m.: Farmers markets will go on this summer with some restrictions

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food released guidelines Wednesday that will allow farmers markets throughout the state to open for the 2020 season.

“If executed diligently, thoughtfully and methodically, there is no reason why steps cannot be taken to provide local producers an opportunity to remain viable and ensure an alternative source for the public to obtain food necessities," said department Commissioner Logan Wilde said in a news release.

The new requirements include keeping 6 feet between shoppers; 10-foot spacing between market booths; and providing hand-washing stations for every five booths.

Vendors will be required to wear gloves and are encouraged to offer delivery and online distribution options as well as preorder and grab-and-go bags.

Consumers are encouraged to use cashless, online forms of payment; wear face masks; and shop alone — only one person per household is recommended.

SNAP and Double UP Food Bucks should still be offered.

Here are a few other changes consumers can expect:

• Separate entrance and exit.

• Sales limited to meats, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products.

• No art/craft vendors.

• No food sampling.

• No prepared foods.

• No entertainment or demonstrations.

— Kathy Stephenson

8:30 a.m.: Park Silly Sunday Market is canceled

The Park Silly Sunday Market, the weekly open-air market on Park City’s historic Main Street, is canceled for the summer because of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Prioritizing the health and welfare of our community, patrons and partners is the only decision that makes sense for this year,” Kimberly Kuehn, the nonprofit event’s CEO and co-founder, announced Wednesday. The decision, she wrote, came after weeks of discussions with vendors, guests and the Summit County Health Department.

The market was scheduled to launch June 7 and run on Sundays through Sept. 27 (except for three weeks in August, when the town stages the Park City Kimball Arts Festival on Main).

Vendors who need refunds will get them, Kuehn wrote, or vendors will be able to apply any booth fees to the holiday events in December or to the 2021 summer market.

The Park Silly Holiday Bazaar is scheduled for Dec. 4-6 at the DeJoria Center in Kamas, and Dec. 11-13 at the Sheraton Park City (formerly the Marriott) at 1895 Sidewinder Drive.

— Sean P. Means

8:15 a.m.: Catalyst pleads for donations to keep magazine alive

The Utah alt-monthly magazine Catalyst is “on the edge” financially because of the coronavirus pandemic, its editor and founder wrote in a pitch to its readers.

“We need your help. Now,” editor/founder Greta Belanger DeJong wrote in an email sent to her readers Tuesday afternoon. “As we work on the May issue, we are struggling to pay our staff and writers. What the future holds beyond May, we cannot say.”

In the email, DeJong set a goal of raising at least $10,000 from membership, donations, underwriting and advertising to keep publishing the magazine, which was founded 38 years ago this month. As of Wednesday morning, the campaign had raised pledges for $3,784.91 in donations.

The magazine, she wrote, serves “Utah’s holistic, progressive community,” with articles about ecology, the community and “the real food economy.”

Catalyst has been a nonprofit since 2016 but relies on advertising revenue — much of it from event-based ads. When those events were canceled, because of shutdown orders for restaurants and arts venues, so were the ads, DeJong explained.

Those venues also were where most copies of Catalyst were distributed — so the magazine has gone online-only, she wrote. The magazine also canceled its annual Bee Fest, billed as “a celebration of pollination,” set for June 15.

— Sean P. Means

7:15 a.m.: Delta reports first loss in 5 years

Delta Air Lines — which has provided 73% of departures from Salt Lake City International Airport — reported its first quarterly loss in five years on Wednesday because of the corornavirus, saying it lost $607 million pre-tax in the first quarter.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian also predicted that earnings in the current quarter will be down “by 90 percent, compared to a year ago.”

Paul Jacobson, Delta’s chief financial officer added, “With the significant impact of COVID-19 on Delta’s revenue, we were burning $100 million per day at the end of March. Through our decisive actions, we expect that cash burn to moderate to approximately $50 million per day by the end of the June quarter.”

The airline listed several of the steps Delta is taking to reduce costs or retain passengers, including:

• Reducing flights. This quarter, domestic flights are down by 80% and international capacity is down by 90%.

• Parking more than 650 aircraft.

• Instituting a company-wide hiring freeze and offering voluntary leave options with 37,000 employees taking short-term unpaid leave.

• Reducing salary expense through pay reductions for executive management and reduced work schedules.

• Adopting new cleaning procedures on all flights, including fogging on all aircraft overnight and sanitizing high-touch areas like tray tables, entertainment screens, armrests and seat-back pockets before boarding.

• Taking steps to help employees and customers practice social distancing, including blocking middle seats, pausing automatic upgrades, and moving to essential meal service only.

• Giving customers flexibility to plan, re-book and travel including extending expiration on travel credits to two years.

• Consolidating airport facilities, with temporary concourse and Delta Sky Club closures.

— Lee Davidson

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