Live coronavirus updates for Monday, May 4: County says homeless person died of COVID-19; 124 cases confirmed at South Salt Lake shelter

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brandi Pitts waits with her daughters Amelia, 4, and Joseph, 11, as they wait for their teachers to drive by as the Highland Park Elementary PTA hosts a "teacher parade," on Friday, May 1, 2020, in Salt Lake City as teachers and staff drive along most of the school boundary streets to celebrate teachers and students during the coronavirus pandemic which closed down schools.

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It’s Monday, May 4. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]


4 p.m.: County confirms homeless person among Utah’s 50 coronavirus deaths

One of Utah’s 50 coronavirus deaths was a homeless person, Salt Lake County confirmed Monday. After contracting COVID-19, the person was taken in April from one of the Salt Lake City area’s three homeless resource centers to a hospital, where he or she later died.

The county said the individual was between the ages of 18 and 60 but would not release any more details, including the date the death occurred. This is the first known death attributable to the coronavirus among Utah’s homeless population.

Chloe Morroni, a spokeswoman in the Salt Lake County mayor’s office, said there are now 124 confirmed coronavirus cases at the men’s resource center in South Salt Lake, which has been hit particularly hard by the virus. That 300-bed facility was turned into a quarantine center last month as the virus spread quickly inside it. There are also four confirmed cases at the Gail Miller Resource Center, while no cases have been identified at the Geraldine E. King women’s resource center.

“We are doing a lot more testing so naturally we will see more positives,” Morroni said in a message to The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday.

Cases are also rising among the unsheltered homeless population, with eight confirmed diagnoses among campers and those living on the streets. Altogether, the homeless population makes up nearly 5% of the 2,769 confirmed cases in Salt Lake County, the state’s most populous and hardest hit by the virus. Salt Lake County has created a team dedicated to working with the homeless population, which is thought to be more vulnerable to the illness.

County leaders have increased street outreach, set up a hotel to house asymptomatic people experiencing homelessness in an effort to promote social distancing within the resource centers and opened a number of quarantine facilities in county-owned buildings. But they’ve been tight-lipped about where those facilities are, repeatedly declining to release the location of those centers or the hotel. The county has confirmed that one quarantine facility is at the Holladay Lions Center in Millcreek, but only after the city provided that information to residents in an email.

— Taylor Stevens

2:55 p.m.: New website locates nearest food resource for either donations or those in need

The Salt Lake County Health Department has launched FeedUT.org to help residents locate the nearest food bank or pantry.

While the website, created by technology developers AQUEHS Corp., was originally intended as a resource for families in need, the health department is now encouraging residents to use the site to volunteer, give food or donate money.

“We developed FeedUT.org to help families in our own neighborhoods access healthy, nutritious foods,” said Anni McKinnon, the department’s healthy living program manager. “But when the pandemic began directly affecting our community, we found we already had a resource available for people looking for an easy, efficient way to help.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Utahns rushed to gather food and supplies. Others who were unable to acquire these necessities now face an increased risk of hunger.

Health officials encourage residents to donate or volunteer to food service organizations while following public health guidelines, such as wearing a mask and maintaining a minimum 6 feet of distance from those outside their household.

Food service organizations are taking measures for safe, no-contact food donations. Facilities that can implement social distancing are seeking volunteers, and financial donations are always accepted.

Residents may also consider planting extra vegetables in their gardens to help stock food pantries and kitchens with fresh produce throughout the summer and fall.

— Kathy Stephenson

2:20 p.m: Free lawn care offered to health care workers, first responders

Utahns working in medicine and emergency services can apply to have someone else mow their lawns.

Cub Cadet, which manufactures lawn care equipment, and TaskEasy, a lawn care service provider, will cut the grass of doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, police officers and firefighters.

The offer is good for up to two cuts every other week. Anyone interested can apply at taskeasy.com/offer.

— Nate Carlisle

1:35 p.m.: Community spread of COVID-19 is declining, state epidemiologist says

Utah state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said Monday that the instances of community spread of COVID-19 have been declining since the outbreak began.

Dunn said that just 11% of cases are the result of community spread — contraction of the disease outside the home. Sixty percent were infected by someone in their household, 25% by someone they know outside their household, and 4% at the workplace.

Dunn also said the state is monitoring the situation in San Juan County and on the Navajo Nation. She said of the 116 cases reported in the county, more than half were detected in the past week. All but seven of those cases are on the Navajo Nation.

She said the state has sent mobile labs to the county several times and is providing guidance on how to identify cases and quarantine individuals to slow the spread.

“Right now, they’re really in need of just testing capacity so our mobile teams are focused on testing,” and not all of the services of the Strike Team, she said. “In terms of what started it, we don’t have any indications right now. We just know they’ve seen a spike in cases in the recent weeks.”

Dunn said the increase is not merely due to additional testing — although a lack of testing previously likely meant cases were missed. “That spike in cases is a true spike in cases,” she said.

Although there were reports of crowded parks over the weekend, as the state eased restrictions by moving from red to an orange alert level, there are no plans to prohibit people from outside the state from visiting the parks, she said.

With the shift, she said, she is concerned there may be an increase in cases.

“My concern with reopening is, of course, that we’ll see a surge in cases and we’re doing everything we can to prevent that,” she said. “As a public health official, our concern is always going to be seeing more cases than we should.”

She said the state is developing metrics internally to help guide whether to move back to a red level and reinstate some limitations. Those metrics are expected to be completed tomorrow.

— Robert Gehrke

1:20 p.m.: COVID-19 panel from Utah’s BioFire Diagnostics receives emergency approval

The French parent company of BioFire Diagnostics announced Monday that the Utah-based firm had received emergency approval for the use of a test it has developed for detecting 22 pathogens that cause respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

According to bioMérieux, a multinational biotechnology company based in Marcy-l'Étoile, France, the BIOFIRE RP2.1 test panel produced by its Salt Lake City subsidiary has been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The test, which is based on a nasopharyngeal swab, takes 45 minutes and allows health care providers “to quickly identify patients with common respiratory pathogens, as well as those with COVID-19, using one simple test,” bioMérieux said in a statement.

Andrea Kendell, interim CEO at BioFire Diagnostics, said that emerging data suggest that patients with COVID-19 “may frequently be co-infected with other viruses and/or bacteria” — highlighting, she said, the need for health care providers to test for several pathogens at once.

A global provider of medical diagnostic tests, bioMérieux said it is now “making every effort” to scale up supplies and “steadily build inventory” of the BIOFIRE RP2.1 panel test at its Utah production facilities, in hopes of offering them for commercial use in the U.S. and internationally “where regulatory approval allows.”

BIOFIRE RP2.1 is the third molecular test bioMérieux has released since March in response to the pandemic, the company said.

— Tony Semerad

12:55 p.m.: Utah reports 142 new cases, no new deaths

The Utah Department of Health announced 142 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Monday, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 5,317. There have been no new deaths since Sunday.

Five additional people have been hospitalized and 2,559 tests were reported since Sunday.

The Navajo Nation continues to be a focal point for the state. Sixteen new cases were reported in San Juan County Monday, on top of 53 cases reported over the weekend, bringing the total for the county to 116. All but seven of the cases are on the Navajo portion of the county.

— Robert Gehrke

12:50 p.m.: ‘Saturday’s Voyeur’ canceled because of the coronavirus

The show won’t go on — the 2020 edition of “Saturday’s Voyeur” has been canceled because of the ongoing pandemic.

Salt Lake Acting Company posted on Monday that the annual musical satire, which pokes fun at all things Utah, will not be produced. “In a pandemic-free world, the ‘Saturday’s Voyeur’ team would have gathered today for its first rehearsal.”

But because of “Utah’s current public health guidelines pertaining to social distancing, ‘Saturday’s Voyeur’ will not be produced this summer. We stand by all efforts that support continued public health in our community.”

Those who have already purchased tickets to the show can ask for a refund; ask for a gift certificate to future SLAC productions; or donate to SLAC’s Amberlee Accessibility Fund, which is raising money to install a new elevator that will make the troupe’s Upstairs Theatre fully wheelchair accessible.

Patrons can contact SLAC by calling 801-363-7522 or emailing info@saltlakeactingcompany.org.

— Scott D. Pierce

11:50 a.m.: iFit donates 1 million surgical masks to the state

Logan-based iFit — a subsidiary of Ikon Fitness — on Monday announced it was donating 1 million surgical masks to the state of Utah as part of the ongoing COVID-19 response.

Additionally, the company will distribute an additional 300,000 masks to a variety of groups including Logan City, Logan Regional Hospital, Logan police and fire departments, Utah State University, Cache Valley Hospital, local nursing homes, and each of its employees.

“We are immensely thankful for this donation,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. “These masks will provide critical PPE for Utahns and our frontline workers as we move forward into the stabilization phase of our [economic recovery].”

The company imported the masks from China.

— Robert Gehrke

10:30 a.m.: Utah’s only PGA Tour-sanctioned golf tournament will be staged without spectators

The Korn Ferry Tour announced Monday that the Utah Championship, the state’s only PGA-Tour sanctioned event, will be played with no spectators. It is scheduled June 25-28 at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington, as the third event of the tour’s restarted schedule.

As is the case with the PGA Tour, at least the first four events of the Korn Ferry Tour's relaunched schedule will be closed to the public, "while continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation and follow the recommendations of local and state authorities in order to determine the most appropriate on-site access in each market," the tour said in a news release.

The Utah Championship typically doesn’t draw big crowds, but Utah natives Patrick Fishburn and Daniel Summerhays have produced decent-sized galleries in recent years. Fishburn is a Korn Ferry Tour regular in 2020 and Summerhays has conditional status. Summerhays is likely to receive a sponsor exemption into the Utah Championship, if he needs it.

— Kurt Kragthorpe

9:55 a.m.: More court hearings can be done remotely, says Utah’s chief justice

More hearings in Utah’s state courts will be held remotely due to continued concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Utah Supreme Court Justice Matthew B. Durrant issued an updated administrative order Friday, expanding how judges can hold hearings by remote video and telephone.

Under the updated order, judges can conduct several kinds of hearings — including probable-cause reviews of warrantless arrests, bail hearings, bench warrant hearings, first appearances, preliminary hearings and sentencing hearings — over video hookup or telephone.

Durrant, the chief justice, is also ordering the creation of a judicial working group to devise ways to conduct “safe and effective” court proceedings that can be held in person. The group will include judges at all court levels, representing both rural and urban jurisdictions.

An early order of business will be a plan to hold jury trials while following state and federal safety guidelines for COVID-19. The Utah Judicial Council must approve any such proposal before it’s implemented.

— Sean P. Means

9:50 a.m.: Dairy farmers in Utah and Idaho turn excess milk into food for the hungry

Dairy farmers in Utah and Idaho launched Curds + Kindness on Monday, a program that will turn surplus milk into food for those in need.

Farmers will send nearly 200,000 gallons of milk — which would have otherwise been disposed — to processing plants, where it will be made into cheese, butter and other foods and then donated to food banks and school districts, according to a news release from Dairy West, the industry’s regional promotion organization.

When restaurants and schools and hotels shut down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, many dairy farmers were stuck with excess milk. At the time, processing plants were unable to take the surplus, and it was often dumped or sent to other farms as feed.

Since then, dairy farmers, dairy companies and community partners have collaborated to find a solution, said Kristi Spence, Dairy West’s senior vice president of marketing, “that will get significant quantities of consumable dairy products to those in need.”

Curds + Kindness will continue at least through the end of May.

— Kathy Stephenson

9:45 a.m.: Hope Lodge offers space to U. medical workers

The American Cancer Society has reopened Hope Lodge in Salt Lake City as a free respite for University of Utah health care workers who are treating patients with COVID-19.

The society said Monday the 40-room facility at 375 E. 100 South, which it closed in March due the pandemic, would now be open to U. health professionals as a place to rest between shifts or when they were reluctant to return home to family members out of precaution over the virus.

Cidne Christensen, the society’s community development director, said health care workers were “making tremendous personal sacrifices and providing them with this home away from home will offer comfort and a place to rest, just as it does for cancer patients and caregivers.”

Mary Beckerle, Huntsman Cancer Institute chief executive officer, said in a statement the gift “will provide peace of mind to our cancer care and other health professionals who will have this housing resource available to them.”

The society has also launched a Hope Lodge COVID-19 Response Fund to repurpose and operate its more than 30 Hope Lodge patient housing facilities across the country during the pandemic. It was encouraging donations to that cause at http://cancer.org/hopelodgefund.

— Tony Semerad