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It’s Thursday, May 14. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.
[Read more coronavirus coverage here.]
12:30 p.m.: Urban Arts Gallery reopening Friday
Salt Lake City’s Urban Arts Gallery will reopen Friday — the first art gallery in the city to do so since businesses started shutting down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We hope that our opening will be a healthy step toward normalcy for our community, and will provide much needed support for local artists who have been affected by the pandemic,” the Utah Arts Alliance, the nonprofit that runs the gallery, said in a statement.
The gallery, at 116 S. Rio Grande St. in The Gateway shopping center, will resume its regular business hours: noon to 9 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays; closed Mondays.
Staff and visitors will be required to wear masks while in the gallery, and staff may limit entry to ensure visitors can maintain 6 feet of social distancing. (That’s not usually a problem, as the gallery has a lot of space.) Staff may enact other policies as a precaution if necessary.
— Sean P. Means
12:15 p.m.: Wilson wants all of Salt Lake County remain at ‘orange’ risk level, but governor’s office rejects request
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson requested that the entire county remain in the “orange” category for moderate risk of the coronavirus — instead of downgrading to “yellow” along with most of the rest of the state — but that was denied by the governor’s office, she said Thursday.
Instead, only Salt Lake City and West Valley City within the county will remain “orange.” The surrounding areas are expected to reopen according to the state’s status change.
“While we recognize progress is being made and we have observed a general leveling of cases, we believe that more time is needed to assess the impacts of phased re-opening,” Wilson said in a statement.
— Courtney Tanner
12:05 p.m.: Herbert announces most of Utah will move from ‘orange,’ to low ‘yellow,’ risk category, not Salt Lake City
Some areas of Utah will move from the “moderate risk,” or “orange,” safety level to the ’low risk,” or “yellow,” level, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday.
Some areas will remain at “orange,” Herbert said. They are: Grand County, Summit County, Wasatch County, Salt Lake City and West Valley City. The change goes into effect Saturday.
Schools, K-12, will remain closed for the end of the year, Herbert said.
People most vulnerable to the coronavirus and their caregivers should remain sheltered, Herbert said.
“This is still a high-risk situation for them,” he said.
Herbert also encourages people to continue to wear face masks. “I would think it would be something people want to do,” he said.
Herbert added: “We would hope people would use caution, and common sense. This is not an on-off switch. It’s moving the dial incrementally. It’s a slow opening of the valve.”The state will be prepared if there’s a surge in COVID-19 cases when the restrictions are eased."
“We’re prepared,” Herbert said. “We would hope, if we handle this right, there won’t be a surge.”
Said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, temporary head of the Utah Department of Health: “We see positive trends, and as we’re coming to the end of the current order, it made sense to move forward."
Among the entities that can open, Herbert listed: Driver’s education classes, travel, and social gatherings up to 50 people, team sports (if participants are given health checks and observers stay 6 feet apart), and swimming pools (if social distancing is maintained on the pool decks).
Even with the eased restrictions, the state isn’t completely over the coronavirus pandemic, Herbert warned. “All of us still need to be careful and conscious,” he said.
Grand County is being kept at the “orange” level, Burton said, because none of the national parks in the area will open until late May.
Summit County will remain in “orange” for at least one more week, Burton said.
Some rural parts of the state “had kind of a leg up,” and moved from “red” to “orange” faster than expected, Herbert said.
If a jurisdiction asks to remain at a higher level, Burton said, it can work with its local health district, and the request will be sent up to the state level for approval. He was noncommittal about whether Bluff, in San Juan County, will get to remain in “red.”
“They should back that request up with data,” Herbert said. “This is a collaborative effort between state and local officials.”
“This is not health of the people vs. economic growth,” Herbert said, but an effort to find “a balance point.”
One township — Burton didn’t say which one — asked to stay at the “orange” level, but that request was declined. “The desire to stay at that level wasn’t warranted,” he said.
“This is a great day. It’s an opportunity for us to move forward, little by little,” Herbert said. “Individual responsibility will be at the forefront,” he added, listing personal hygiene and employers providing a safe workspace as important factors in thwarting the spread of coronavirus.
“Let’s all work together,” Herbert concluded. “That’s the Utah way.”
Media briefings will be cut back to twice a week, Herbert said, unless events warrant other announcements. Herbert will take part once a week.
— Sean Means
11:30 a.m.: Herbert will let state’s moratorium on evictions expire on Friday
Herbert said he will let the state’s moratorium on evictions, declared at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, expire on Friday.
The eviction moratorium was meant “to give us a pause, as we had this unique situation,” Herbert said. It was limited to people who had kept current on their rent, and had suffered financial damage because of the pandemic-related shutdown of business.
Through April, Herbert said, 90 percent of renters are up-to-date on their rent in Utah, “and we think May is going to be even better,” Herbert said.
“If some tenant has fallen through the cracks, there are options available to them,” Herbert said. “Help is on the way,” in the form of federal aid money.
— Sean Means
11:25 a.m.: No new Utah COVID-19 deaths reported, but 129 more people test positive
After five consecutive days with COVID-19 related deaths, the Utah Department of Heath reported no new fatalities on Thursday.
However, 129 more people tested positive, bringing the state case total to 6,749.
Salt Lake County accounts for more than half of the state’s cases with 3,604 while Utah County (1,435) makes up for more than 20%.
Five more people have been hospitalized than reported Wednesday, bringing the total to 558, while 3,333 more people have been tested.
The Utah Department of Health’s statistical dashboard has added two categories of data, Dunn noted. One tracks the illness in longterm care facilities. The other breaks down the numbers of hospitalizations, and mortality rates.
— Norma Gonzalez, Sean Means
11:20 a.m.: Department of Health’s interim head lays out a proposed Utah transition from ‘Orange’ to ‘Yellow’
Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, temporary head of the Utah Department of Health, outlined Thursday what moving from “moderate risk,” or “orange,” safety levels to “low risk,” or “yellow,” would look like.
When an area moves to the less restrictive yellow level, mass gatherings could move from 20 to 50 people, Burton said.
People can leave their home as needed, he added.
Team sports can resume, with regular symptom checking, and public swimming pools can reopen if social distancing is maintained on the pool deck.
Schools, grades kindergarten through 12th grade, should remain closed in Utah for the remainder of the school year, Burton said.
Burton listed the four metrics the state watches — transmission rate, hospital capacity, contact tracing and exposure sources.
“We’re well above all of the triggers we’re looking for,” said state Sen. Dan Hemmert, who co-chairs the governor’s Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission.
“Ninety-nine % of those who contract coronavirus recover from it,” said Dr. Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health. “And 92% of them recover at home.”“Coronavirus is a bully. It finds and attacks at-risk individuals,” Good said.
Those include the elderly, and those with other medical conditions.
Good said more than 70% who have died from coronavirus were over 65. And 90 percent were either over 65 or had underlying medical conditions, he said.
Coronavirus flourishes because of “an interaction of living environment, working environment and medical conditions, working together,” Good said.
Good suggested Utahns consider their elderly parents.
“If they stay in their home, and away from their kids, no matter how many medical conditions they have,” Good said, they can avoid contracting the coronavirus.
The commission, Good said, “needs your help focusing on at-risk individuals.”
— Sean Means
10 a.m.: AAA expects record low Memorial Day travel
For the first time in 20 years, the AAA travel services company will not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, saying the economic data used to generate it has been undermined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, it says anecdotal reports suggest that far fewer people will hit the road this year for what is considered the unofficial start of the travel season.
“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend — the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said Aldo Vazquez, spokesperson, AAA Utah. “With physical distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”
However, he said his company has been seeing a modest rise in online bookings for future travel, with vacationers gravitating to road trips in the United States, Canada and Mexico. “We are seeing that Americans are showing a preference and inspiration to explore all that our country has to offer as soon as it is safe to travel,”
During the height of stay-at-home restrictions, the Utah Department of Transportation reported that traffic on the state’s freeways was at about 60% of normal for several weeks. However, once restrictions eased, traffic quickly returned to near-normal levels.
— Lee Davidson
9:30 a.m.: Delta permanently parks some jumbo jets
The coronavirus pandemic claimed a different sort of casualty Thursday: Delta Air Line’s iconic fleet of Boeing 777 jumbo jets.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced Thursday, “With international travel expected to return slowly, we’ve also made the difficult decision to permanently retire our Boeing 777 fleet — 18 aircraft – by the end of the year.”
Now for long-haul flights, Delta — which has provided 73% of departures from its hub Salt Lake City International Airport — will instead rely on its next generation Airbus A350-900s, which burn 21% less fuel per seat than the 777s.
Bastian said the move is needed to save cash, and noted the airline is losing $50 million each day.
“Our principal financial goal for 2020 is to reduce our cash burn to zero by the end of the year, which will mean, for the next two to three years, a smaller network, fleet and operation in response to substantially reduced customer demand. An important tool to help us achieve these goals is retiring older aircraft and modernizing our fleet,” he said in a memo to employees.
It has parked more than 650 jets total to match reduced customer demand amid COVID-19 restrictions.
When Delta started using the 777 in 1999, it allowed it to fly extra-long nonstop routes such as between Atlanta and South Africa, and Los Angeles to Australia.
— Lee Davidson
8 a.m.: Ogden Twilight Concerts canceled
Another popular summer event has been shuttered due to COVID-19: the 2020 Ogden Twilight Concert Series.
Ogden Twilight announced the decision in a Facebook post.
“Given the state of things this likely doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but due to health concerns and restrictions surrounding COVID-19 I’m afraid we have to cancel the 2020 season of Ogden Twilight,” the post says. “We’ve tried everything we could to hold on to this year (rescheduling shows to the fall, back up artists in place, etc...), but it was like building a sand castle against the tide. The waves just kept coming... knocking down our efforts again and again.”
This year’s concert series was originally set to kick off May 29 with Purity Ring, but that initial concert had already been postponed in late March when it became apparent that social distancing restrictions wouldn’t allow for the show to continue as planned.
The 2020 season was also going to bring artists like Tycho, The Flaming Lips, CHVRCHES, The Head And The Heart, DJ Shadow, Fitz and Tantrums, Big Wild, Louis The Child and Portugal. The Man.
Tickets will be refunded automatically through 24tix.com within a week.
— Norma Gonzalez
7:20 a.m.: Ogden launches emergency fund for businesses
Ogden City has pooled donations develop an Emergency Loan Fund, which will offer businesses up to $10,000 with 0% interest and up to 12 months of deferred payments. The newly-formed fund is one of the city’s primary efforts to support businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and related economical impacts.
R&O Construction got the ball moving, making the first donation with the goal to support the most vulnerable businesses, prompting Ogden City to establish the fund.
Other major donors include the Ogden Industrial Development Corporation, Wadman Corporation, Marketstar, Utah Certified Development Company and Goldenwest Credit Union.
So far, 23 companies have received or are in the process of receiving funds, while seven additional companies have been approved to receive funds.
More details about the program are available on the city’s website.
— Norma Gonzalez
7 a.m.: At least 173,000 Utahns have filed for jobless claims since the crisis began
Weekly unemployment claims in Utah inched down again last week from pandemic highs reached in early April, with nearly 7,135 residents filing claims.
The Department of Labor reported Thursday those workers were among another 2.98 million Americans thrown out of work, for a total of 36.5 million displaced since COVID-19 began ravaging the U.S. economy in early March.
Utah has now seen at least 173,820 people seek government help for layoffs, furloughs or reduced pay due to the pandemic and measures to contain it. That number includes self-employed and gig workers from previous weeks. An update on those workers will come later today.
The Labor Department said the nation’s unemployment has likely pushed passed 14.7%, even as states including Utah have begun to ease health restrictions and slowly reopen portions of their economies.
— Tony Semerad