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It’s Monday, May 18. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.
[Read more coronavirus coverage here.]
2:20 p.m.: Another LDS temple reopens in Utah; two more to follow next week
The Jordan River Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reopened Monday for limited use in South Jordan after being shut down for more than seven weeks.
It joined 11 other Utah temples of the state’s predominant faith in offering marriage “sealings” for couples who already have gone through a Latter-day Saint ritual known as the endowment.
Next Monday, the Draper Temple and the Mount Timpanogos Temple in American Fork will open as well, bringing 14 of the state’s Latter-day Saint temples back on line.
Sealing ceremonies will take place Monday through Saturday by appointment only, according to a news release, with one sealing at a time attended by 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.”
— David Noyce
1:20 p.m.: No new deaths from COVID-19, Utah Department of Health reports
Utah has logged 146 new cases of COVID-19 since the day before, the Utah Department of Health reported Monday.
No new deaths were reported Monday; the state’s death toll from the pandemic remains at 80.
The state has recorded 7,384 cases of COVID-19 since the first cases were logged in March.
Nine more Utahns were hospitalized, bringing the state’s total up to 595. Only 98 of those were still in the hospital as of Sunday, down five from the day before.
UDOH reports 3,270 more people have been tested for the coronavirus since Sunday. That brings the total to 174,022 people in Utah tested overall.
The state estimates that 4,183 people have recovered from COVID-19 — which is defined by having been diagnosed three weeks ago and not dying.
— Sean P. Means
12:40 p.m.: Smith’s Food & Drug employees in Utah to get 'thank you’ bonus
Their coronavirus hazard pay officially ends May 23, but qualified employees at Smith’s Food & Drug stores in Utah will receive an extra “thank you” bonus, according to a news release from its parent company.
The Kroger Co. announced the one-time bonus Monday, days after it said it would end its “hero” pay for its front-line workers.
The pay reduction angered leaders of the United Food and Commercial Workers International, which said grocery store employees remain at risk from COVID-19.
Kroger has provided multiple appreciation and hero bonuses through March, April and mid-May.
The new “thank you” pay will equal $400 for full-time associates and $200 for part-time workers, the company said. It will be paid in two installments, on May 30 and June 18, to grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center employees.
Kroger was one of many employers across the country that temporarily boosted wages or offered bonuses when the pandemic began to attract new workers and reward existing ones.
“To recognize and thank our associates for their incredible work during this historic time, we offered special pay in March, April and May,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, said in the release. “At the same time, we will continue running a sustainable business that provides steady employment and opportunities to learn and grow for over half a million associates.”
Kroger also said it is continuing its paid time off for employees affected by the virus or experiencing related symptoms.
— Kathy Stephenson
11:25 a.m.: Salt Lake County begins reopening recreation spots
Salt Lake County’s playgrounds, dog parks, pickleball courts, skate parks, open fields, paths and trails opened Monday, with social distance requirements in cities currently under the “yellow” risk level for coronavirus. Restrooms in parks will be available as well.
The openings are part of a phased relaunch of park amenities and recreation facilities that Salt Lake County’s Parks and Recreation announced late last week. Wheeler Farm will reopen Friday and the Sunday Farmers Market will begin June 7, with modified operations.
On Saturday, pavilions and athletic fields will be open in cities currently in the “yellow” phase of the state’s plan — all those but Salt Lake City and West Valley City, which remain at the “orange” risk level. Amenities will be open for reservations, through groups will be required to follow health department guidelines.
June 1 will mark the opening of select recreation centers with modified operations, the county said. Openings will be determined on a number of factors, including staffing and health order directives related to amenities. More information will be provided as plans are updated.
Finally, the county is pitching July 1 as its target date to open Salt Lake County-run outdoor pools.
All six county-operated golf courses are open with reservations and pre-pay only. The county said it is still looking at when and how to open its park splash pads, youth and adult sports programming, child care facilities and summer camps.
— Taylor Stevens
11:20 a.m.: Yellow status increases demand for, and price of, Utah gasoline
Moving to a low-risk, or yellow, status for the coronavirus in most of Utah increased the demand for gasoline here, leading the Beehive State to tie for the seventh biggest gas price increase nationally in the past week.
The price for regular gasoline in Utah was $2.02 on Monday, up 6 cents a gallon from $1.96 a week ago, according to the AAA travel services company. The current price is 15 cents a gallon more than the national average of $1.87 a gallon.
The 6 cents increase over the last week ranked sixth highest in the nation behind Idaho (up 17 cents), Pennsylvania (8 cents), and Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and Colorado (all 7 cents).
AAA says the price of gasoline increased in every state during the past week, as demand increased while coronavirus restrictions were eased in most of the country.
The good news: gasoline is still far cheaper than normal headed into Memorial Day.
“Gas prices around Memorial Day have not been this cheap in nearly 20 years. However, as the country continues to practice social distancing, this year’s unofficial kick-off to summer is not going to drive the typical millions of Americans to travel,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson.
“Despite inexpensive gas prices, AAA anticipates this year’s holiday will likely set a record low for travel volume,” she said. The average price of gasoline in Utah is $1.18 less than it was a year ago before Memorial Day.
— Lee Davidson
9:50 a.m.: Weekly grocery donations have helped Utah bartenders
Utah bartenders and their families have been receiving weekly grocery donations during the pandemic, thanks to food donations from Sysco International.
The food purveyor has worked with the Utah chapter of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild to provide the service workers — laid off during the state’s now-lifted shutdown of bars and restaurants — a range of dry goods and produce from broccoli, kale and onions to milk, eggs, rice and flour.
Guild members can place an order early in the week for Friday pickup, explained Utah guild President Joslyn Pust, who along with other guild leaders package orders and provide no-contact pickup for the families.
The Bar X in Salt Lake City has allowed the group to use its parking lot for the grocery exchange, and Distillery 36 has pitched in hand sanitizers for the families.
“It's been inspiring to see how many people are so willing to help,” Pust said. ”We are so grateful for our community and their dedication to taking care of each other.”
— Kathy Stephenson