Live coronavirus updates for Friday, May 15: Two die; Most of Utah officially moving to ‘yellow’ status

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A group of people keep their distance as they meet at Sugarhouse Park, Thursday May 14, 2020.

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It’s Friday, May 15. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.
[Read more coronavirus coverage here.]

7:20 p.m.: Gov. Herbert officially issues order moving most of Utah to yellow status

Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday evening officially issued the executive order that would move most of Utah from the orange, moderate public health risk category to the yellow, low-risk level.
The new order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and will last until 11:59 p.m. on May 29, unless modified, rescinded or replaced.
Grand, Summit and Wasatch counties, in addition to Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Magna, will all remain at the orange stage. Magna was added to the list since Herbert announced the order Thursday.
The yellow risk category urges people to gather only in groups of less than 50 people, whereas in the orange stage, officials recommended gatherings only in groups of less than 20. The less restrictive risk level also allows all businesses to open, but asks owners to take precautions to keep the space clean and keep employees and customers a safe distance apart.
For more on the state’s guidelines, visit coronavirus.utah.gov.
— Paighten Harkins
2:45 p.m.: Spice to Go returns with online ordering and curbside pickup
Salt Lake City’s Spice to Go, a weekly meal service prepared by a rotating list of refugee entrepreneurs, returns Thursday, May 21, officials announced this week.
Customers need to order and pay online before noon on Tuesday, May 19, for curbside pickup on that Thursday at Square Kitchen, 751 W. 800 South. Pickup is available from 4 to 6:30pm
This week’s meal will be prepared by Ashikat Kitchen, which specializes in the foods of Iraq and Jordan. It will include a choice of chicken or vegan Biryani served over basmati rice. Cost per meal is $10 and includes a side salad.
Spice to Go was launched in 2017 by the food entrepreneurs at the Spice Kitchen Incubator. Each week, adventurous diners can order a different type of cuisine and help new Americans launch their ethnic food businesses.
— Kathy Stephenson

1:45 p.m.: Tenants are struggling, but more are paying rent

New data for April on Utah’s commercial real estate sector indicates that tenants of retail spaces and older office buildings continue to struggle.
But overall, according to a new survey from Cushman & Wakefield, a Salt Lake City-based commercial brokerage, rent delinquencies appear to be declining.
About a third of the owners and managers of retail properties totaling nearly 5 million square feet of shop space in Utah said their tenants did not pay April rent, the new survey found. That’s down from March, when roughly half of those retail tenants were falling behind.
About 8.5% of landlords who oversee newer, better-located office spaces in the Salt Lake Valley — known as Class A buildings — reported their tenants missed payments in April, up from 5% in March.
For owners of Class B offices, which are older and seen as slightly less desirable, the share of delinquent tenants was four times higher, at 20%, the same level seen in March.
Owners and managers of nearly 30,000 apartment units in Utah reported that between 3.5% and 5% of their tenants missed April rent payments, the latest poll found.
That’s a major improvement from March, when between 7% and 9% of renters said they couldn’t afford to pay.
The news on apartment dwellers comes as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s temporary moratorium on evictions statewide was set to expire Friday.
The state of Utah has since unveiled a $4 million rental assistance program aimed at keeping renters whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19 in their homes.
— Tony Semerad

1:20 p.m.: Utah reports 2 more deaths, bringing the total to 77

For the sixth time in seven days, Utahns have died from the the coronavirus. The Utah Department of Health reported two deaths Friday — a woman between the ages of 60 and 84 in Salt Lake County who was the resident of a long-term care family; and an “older male” between the ages of 18-59 in San Juan County who was hospitalized at time of his death.
That brings the total number COVID-19 related deaths in the state to 77.
The health department also reported an increase of 164 cases from Thursday, bringing the total to 6,913. And eight new active hospitalizations, bringing the current total 102.

The overall total of hospitalizations is 566. The state says 3,719 people who tested positive are listed as “recovered” — a survivor who tested positive at least three weeks ago.
In all the state has recorded 163,218 coronavirus tests and 3,099 were added to the tally Friday. The state’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests is 4.2%.
Almost two-thirds of the new cases were reported in Salt Lake County — 105 out of 164. Other areas of the state reporting new cases of COVID-19 were Utah County — 20; southwest Utah — 13; Wasatch County — 8; Davis County — 5; San Juan County — 5; Tooele County — 2; Weber-Morgan — 12; and Bear River — 1.
— Scott D. Pierce

1:20 p.m: Indoor movie theaters open up in Utah County

Two indoor movie theaters in Utah County are open this weekend, gradually, as restrictions enacted to stem the spread of the coronavirus are eased statewide.
The Water Gardens Theaters in Pleasant Grove is opening its auditoriums for the first time in months, for daytime screenings Friday and Saturday. Ticket sales will be limited to 20 people per screening Friday, and 50 people per screening Saturday — reflecting the move from the moderate-risk “orange” safety level to the lower-risk “yellow” level in most of Utah, starting Saturday.
The Water Gardens is only playing two movies indoors for now: the animated “Trolls World Tour” and the Vin Diesel action film “Bloodshot.” Tickets are $3, “until we are able to open new movies again,” according to the theater’s newsletter. The Water Gardens also will continue its parking lot “drive-in” offerings.
In Orem, the SCERA Theatre started limited special screenings last Friday, and will continue this weekend with films from the “Harry Potter” series — “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" on Friday, and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” on Saturday. Starting Monday, the SCERA will screen movies in the “Jurassic Park” franchise.
Both the Water Gardens and the SCERA promise they will limit ticket sales, to allow patrons to stay apart inside the auditorium. Cleaning and sanitizing procedures will also be in place. Both theaters are closed on Sundays.
— Sean P. Means

9:55 a.m.: After employee productivity jumps, Young Living extends work-from-home plans to end of the year

Lehi-based Young Living is telling more than 1,200 employees that they will continue to work from home through the end of the year.
The maker of essential oils moved 95% of the employees at its U.S. headquarters in Lehi to remote work on March 13, following state recommendations to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, the company claims its IT department has seen a 25% increase in productivity, and the company has had a 13% increase in sales.
Having most of the workforce work from home, according to the company, has eliminated more than 20,000 pounds of carbon emissions every day (based on an estimated average 30-mile round trip commute, using the Utah TravelWise emissions calculator).
Jared Turner, Young Living’s president and COO, said he wasn’t sold on working from home regularly before the coronavirus pandemic, but “seeing the positive impact of additional flexibility has had on our employees, their families and the environment has given me a new perspective.
The company says it will offer a range of online services to its employees who work from home and their families: Virtual fitness classes, homework aid for children, therapy and counseling services, training on remote work productivity and wellness, management training, and “happy hour” chats.
The company is also providing laptops and headsets to employees who need them, and extended emergency leave to on-site employees who can’t work from home.
— Sean P. Means

9:40 a.m.: Farmers plan to distribute lamb to Navajo Nation

The first project for the week-old Farmers Feeding Utah program will be to deliver thousands of pounds of Utah-raised lamb to the Navajo Nation in southeastern Utah.
“Through this first project, we’re able to help a very deserving group of people that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ron Gibson, president of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, said in a news release, “and help some Utah sheep ranchers at the same time.”
Gibson said the market for lamb was reduced significantly with restaurants operating at limited capacity.
To complete this first “Miracle Project,” the program needs $100,000 by May 20. So far it has raised nearly $80,000. Individuals, organizations and private companies can donate at FarmersFeedingUtah.org, and 100% of the donations will be used to purchase, process and distribute food.
The lamb will be given to the Navajo Nation chapters in Mexican Water, Aneth, Oljato and Navajo Mountain.
As the largest Native American reservation in the country, the Navajo Nation has seen higher death rates from COVID-19 than most other states in the country.
Many residents live in areas considered food deserts, with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. For some communities, unemployment rates are 100% or close to it, because many depend on recreation to fuel their economies.
The Utah Farm Bureau and the Hunger Solutions Institute are working with the Utah Division of Emergency Management, Utah State University Extension-San Juan County and local food pantries to facilitate the distribution of lamb to those in need.
“We're grateful to the Utah Farm Bureau for their efforts to build this program and are excited about the assistance it will provide to the people of the Navajo Nation who are in need during this unprecedented time,” said Anna Boynton, state tribal liaison for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.
The Farm Bureau launched Farmers Feeding Utah as a way to help farmers and ranchers stay in business, while providing food to those in need.
— Kathy Stephenson
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