Live coronavirus updates for Monday, May 11: Another Utahn dies; Arches and Canyonlands to reopen

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Intermountain Healthcare Coronavirus Mobile Testing Unit at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo for the second day, Friday May 8, 2020.

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It’s Monday, May 11. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read more coronavirus coverage here.]


5:15 p.m.: Arches and Canyonlands national parks to reopen May 29

Two more of southern Utah’s marquee national parks, as well as Dinosaur National Monument, have scheduled reopenings this month as part of the National Park Service’s phased approach to increasing recreational access at its destinations shuttered last month in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which still shows little sign of abating in Utah.

When Arches and Canyonlands open their gates May 29, nearly all trails, roads and restrooms will be available to the public, but the campgrounds, visitors centers and stores will remain closed, those parks announced Monday. Previously permitted commercial guiding will also resume at that time, but the Fiery Furnace will remain closed to all hiking because the trail is so narrow in many places, making it impossible for visitors to maintain appropriate social distance, according to Angie Richman, the parks’ chief of interpretation.

A similar limited reopening is set for Dinosaur, which will resume allowing the public to hike trails starting Wednesday. There’s a catch for the Colorado side, which appears to be available only to those who live nearby.

“The current state [Colorado] guidance directs that outdoor recreation must be within one’s community and/or no further than 10 miles from residence,” said a news release issued by the monument Monday.

Overnight travel, campgrounds, river trips, the dinosaur quarry and visitors center will remain closed at Dinosaur beyond Wednesday with no announced opening dates for those amenities that would normally support visitors’ experience.

Last week, Bryce and Capitol Reef saw limited openings, while Glen Canyon National Recreational Area has opened Lake Powell’s boat ramps for weekend use. Zion National Park, among Utah’s busiest tourist destinations, will open Wednesday, but the offerings will be slim.

No fees will be collected at any national park until further notice.

— Brian Maffly

4:44 p.m.: Park City Institute cancels Eccles Center summer concerts

Park City Institute’s summer concert series has become another cultural casualty of the coronavirus pandemic — because the venue, Park City’s Eccles Center Theatre, will go dark for the foreseeable future.

The institute, a nonprofit that books concerts and lectures year-round, shares use of the Eccles Center with Park City High School. And, according to a statement from the institute, the Park City School District will not allow any events at the massive auditorium until Summit County is placed under a “green” public health recommendation. Right now, the state is under a moderate risk, or “orange,” safety level.

“Everyone at the Park City Institute worked hard to curate an exciting, diverse summer series,” Ari Ioannides, the institute’s executive director, said in a statement issued Monday. “Unfortunately, our local community performance venue will be dark for the foreseeable future.”

Among the acts that Park City Institute tentatively had booked were country singer Gretchen Wilson, hip-hop string duo Black Violin and the folk-rock quartet Upstate. The institute also was planning its first locals live concert series, to be streamed online Saturdays at 7 p.m. from the Eccles’ Black Box theater. “We will have to scramble to find alternative production facilities,” Ioannides said.

— Sean P. Means

3:25 p.m.: Coronavirus has changed our shopping habits, survey shows

Shoppers are making fewer trips to the grocery store but spending more when they go, a new consumer survey shows.

Americans also are eating more processed foods and fewer vegetables, according to the survey conducted by C+ R Research.

The Chicago-based market research firm asked 2,012 consumers to compare shopping habits, budget, experiences and diets before COVID-19 and after. The survey was conducted March 27-28.

Researchers found that:

• 73% of consumers are making fewer trips to the grocery store, dropping from 2.3 weekly trips before the pandemic to one trip a week.

• 45% of people say they are spending more on groceries, with an average weekly bill of $184. That’s up $25 from $159 before the outbreak.

• 88% of consumers are unable to find certain items they normally buy.

• 48% are paying more for certain items.

• 46% said the pandemic has led them to buy items in bulk.

“It’s interesting to note,” researchers said, “that even though many respondents say they buy in bulk, 89% believe limits should be placed on items.”

The pandemic has also changed what we eat. “Among those who have changed their eating habits, 47% are eating more processed foods; 36% are eating less produce; and 26% are eating less meat or poultry.”

With consumers making fewer trips to grocery stores, the use of delivery services has increased.

According to respondents, 44% said they are using more restaurant, meal-kit or grocery delivery services and mobile apps.

Considering the convenience factor, 27% of respondents said they plan to continue to use grocery delivery apps once the pandemic is over.

— Kathy Stephenson

4:13 p.m.: 10 cases at Salt Lake County’s homeless shelter for families

Salt Lake County has identified 10 positive cases of COVID-19 among clients at the Midvale Family Resource Center, a county spokeswoman said Monday.

The 10 cases occurred in seven different families staying at the homeless shelter after 140 people were tested last week. Those who have tested positive and their families have been relocated to the county’s quarantine and isolation facilities, the locations of which the county has repeatedly denied to disclose.

Three of 56 staff members have also tested positive.

Chloe Morroni, a spokeswoman in the Salt Lake County mayor’s office, said no new clients are being accepted into the Midvale resource center.

“Salt Lake County and partners are working with the Salt Lake County Health Department to allow new families as soon as it is responsible to do so,” she said in an email.

In the meantime, Utah Community Action is working with families to assess needs and divert them from needing shelter, she said. If diversion isn’t possible, the organization will work to connect families with resources and will bring them in if still needed when the Midvale resource center reopens to new families.

The county confirmed last week that one of Utah’s coronavirus deaths was a homeless person between the ages of 18 and 60. There have been no new deaths among the population since then, Morroni said.

At the same time, coronavirus cases in the South Salt Lake men’s resource center continue to climb — 144 of the 201 men there have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday.

There are no cases at the Geraldine E. King Women’s Resource Center in Salt Lake City. The number of diagnoses at the Gail Miller co-ed shelter has remained stable at four cases, as has the number in the unsheltered community at eight.

— Taylor Stevens

2:30 p.m.: Utah now has a high-risk hotline

The state of Utah has launched a hotline for people in high-risk group for contracting the coronavirus, and the people who care for them.

For people who are elderly, or suffering from such immunodeficiency disorders as diabetes or obesity, “it is still important to take extra precautions,” Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist, said at the state’s media briefing Monday.

The hotline — at 877-424-4840 — can help people with meal, grocery or medication delivery, along with other services, Dunn said. Employees of the Utah Department of Human Services will staff the hotline, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

— Sean P. Means

2:25 p.m.: Utah’s fuel tax collections drop

Utah fuel tax revenues plummeted by 13% in March — when stay-at-home directives hit in the middle of that month — compared to the same month a year earlier.

But sales tax revenue dropped only by 0.4%, as sales by online retailers and grocery stores boomed, but big drops hit theaters, restaurants, hotels and car dealers.

That’s according to data released Monday by the Utah Tax Commission. Officials expect to see bigger drops for April.

Data show that motor fuel taxes in March brought in $91.7 million, or $13.7 million less than in March 2019. Once stay-at-home directives hit, the Utah Department of Transportation reported that traffic dropped to about 60% of normal on major Wasatch Front highways — and returned to near normal in May as restrictions eased.

UDOT has said it does not expect the decreased fuel tax to slow or delay highway projects this summer because emergency federal grants are making up for losses, but it is unsure what effect it may have in the future.

Aviation fuel revenue took an even bigger it. It dropped 26.1% compared to the previous March, or down by $4.8 million to $13.7 million. Airlines have reported that passengers nationally are down by 94%. Much of that drop came after March.

Sales taxes revenue cuts were not as deep in March, but were down by $26.7 million to $6.22 billion statewide compared to March 2019.

That varied greatly by industry.

Revenue dropped the most in arts, entertainment and recreation, -51.3%; accommodations, -47.3%; retail clothing, -44.5%; food services and drinking places, -26.4%; educational services, -25.6%; and retail motor vehicle and parts dealers, -20.5%.

Industries that saw the biggest increases were non-store retailers (such as online and by-mail businesses), up 76.4%; retail food stores, 36.2%; transportation and warehousing, 34.5%; and general merchandise store, 18.8%.

— Lee Davidson

1:30 p.m.: One more Utahn dies, no plan to ease restrictions this week

Another Utahn has died from COVID-19, the Utah Department of Health reported Monday, bringing the state’s death toll from the pandemic to 68.

The newest fatality was a man, older but under 60, in Salt Lake County, said Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist. He was hospitalized before he died.

Seventeen people in Utah died from COVID-19 last week, the deadliest tally from the virus since the first cases were reported in March.

Dunn said the death toll “points to the need to continue our vigilant response.”

However, deaths are a “lagging indicator,” she said, and the hope is that the decrease in cases at the end of last week and into this week will lead to a reduction of deaths in the coming weeks.

The state logged 111 more cases as of Monday, for a total of 6,362 cases. That’s a growth rate of 1.8%, Dunn said.

More than 150,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus in Utah, Dunn said — with more than 4,000 new tests since Sunday.

The state reported five more people in Utah were hospitalized with COVID-19, for a total of 517 since the pandemic began.

Dunn said Utah’s transmission rate is between 1.1 and 1.3, meaning an infected person transmits the disease to on average 1.1 people. She said the state needs to “get to a transmission rate of less than 1. That’s how you know you’re getting it under control.”

She said the public appears to be following the state’s health recommendations, even as the state moved from “high risk” to “moderate risk.”

“We’ve definitely maintained a plateau for a couple of weeks. We haven’t seen a decline,” Dunn said.

The state has no plans to move from the moderate-risk “orange” to the low-risk “yellow” level this week, Dunn said.

In response to calls to open the economy all at once, Dunn said, “we can’t separate the public health crisis from the economic crisis. They go hand in hand.

”The economy won’t pick up," she said, until “the public has confidence that they can go out safely.”

— Sean P. Means

12:30 p.m.: Utah starts a rental assistance program

The state of Utah launched a new rental assistance program Monday.

The temporary $4 million program aims to help stabilize renters whose incomes have been damaged by the pandemic but who don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. Those eligible can apply for monthly payments made to their landlords of up to $1,500.

Jonathan Hardy, director of the state’s Division of Housing and Community Development, said the rental assistance sought to reach “individuals and families in Utah who may be falling through the cracks.”

“We don’t want anyone to lose their housing as a result of this pandemic,” Hardy said in a statement.

Multiple agencies can field residents’ applications, depending on where they live:

• Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties — Bear River Association of Governments.

• Summit, Utah and Wasatch — Community Action Services and Food Bank and Mountainland Association of Governments.

• Morgan and Davis — Family Connection Centers/Open Doors.

• Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington — Five County Association of Governments.

• Weber — Ogden Weber Community Action Partnership.

• Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan — Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments.

• Juab, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier and Wayne — Six County Association of Governments.

• Daggett, Duschesne and Uintah — Uintah Basin Association of Governments.

• Salt Lake and Tooele — Salt Lake Community Action Program.

• Weber — Weber Housing Authority.

• Tooele — Tooele County Housing Authority.

For more information on eligibility and how to apply, renters can also call 2-1-1.

— Tony Semerad

11:30 a.m.: Nearly a dozen Latter-day Saint temples reopen in Utah

A number of temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — including nearly a dozen in Utah — reopened Monday for limited use after being shut down for more than six weeks.

The edifices, where devout members participate in their faith’s most sacred religious ceremonies, are offering only marriage “sealings” for couples who already have gone through a temple ritual known as the endowment.

The marriage ceremonies will take place Monday through Saturday by appointment only, according to a news release, with only one sealing at a time, with only the couple and a few family members.

All government and public health directives “will be observed, including restrictions related to travel and crossing of state or other regional borders,” the release said, “and the use of safety equipment such as masks.”

These 11 Utah temples were on the initial list to reopen Monday: Bountiful, Brigham City, Cedar City, Logan, Manti, Monticello, Ogden, Oquirrh Mountain in South Jordan, Payson, Provo and Provo City Center.

A 12th, the Jordan River Temple in South Jordan, has since been added and will offer limited sealings as well starting May 18.

— David Noyce

9 a.m.: Delta suspends service to three California airports

As another sign of stress in the airline industry, Delta Air Lines is temporarily consolidating flights from its hub at Salt Lake City International Airport to some California markets.

Beginning on Wednesday, it will suspend flights from Salt Lake City to the Long Beach and the Hollywood Burbank airports — and fly only to Los Angeles International Airport in the greater Los Angeles area.

It is also suspending flights from Salt Lake City to Oakland International Airport and will serve only San Francisco International Airport in the Bay Area. Before the pandemic, Delta provided 73% of the departures from Salt Lake City International.

The step comes as Delta is suspending service to 10 airports nationally. Delta said its service to those airports will remain closed at least until September as it continues to evaluate overall network needs.

“The safety of our employees and customers remains our primary focus as we navigate these challenges together,” said Sandy Gordon, senior vice president for domestic airport operations. “By consolidating operations while customer traffic is low, we can allow more of our people to stay home in accordance with local health guidelines.”

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, airlines that accept federal payroll assistance must maintain minimal air service to all U.S. cities that they served before the pandemic. However, they may consolidate flights in multi-airport regions or seek a waiver to suspend flights elsewhere.

Delta, JetBlue (which has 2,000 customer service employees in Utah) and Hawaiian airlines have announced steps to consolidate flights.

That comes as U.S. airlines in the week that ended May 5 averaged just 23 passengers on each domestic flight, and lost $350 million to $400 million each day. Passengers are down by 94%, and half of the industry’s planes are parked, according to the Airlines for America trade group.

— Lee Davidson

7:50 a.m.: Macy’s reopens in Utah

Macy’s is reopening in the Salt Lake County, albeit with stricter in-store safety measures.

For those that want to place orders online, Macy’s locations at City Creek Center, Fashion Place and South Towne Center will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for contact-free curbside pick-up.

“We are ready to welcome our customers back to Macy's stores in the Salt Lake City community,” said Marc Mastronasdi, chief stores officer at Macy's. “We're introducing new precautions to keep your family and ours safe."

For in-store shoppers, Macy’s is complying with federal health recommendations. This includes frequent and enhanced cleaning in heavily trafficked areas, implementing guidelines to maintain 6 feet between all customers and colleagues, installing sanitation stations throughout the store, as well as plexiglass at select registers.

Macy’s is also asking employees to wear face masks and is guiding daily wellness checks.

The store has also extended its return policy, allowing customers to return merchandise purchased online up to 60 days beyond the original end date noted on the receipt.

— Norma Gonzalez

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