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It’s Wednesday, May 20. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.
[Read more coronavirus coverage here.]
2 p.m.: State economic plan call for fast investments
Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, painted in the details of the state’s new “Utah Leads Together 3.0” plan at a Wednesday news conference.
“Our state entered this crisis very economically well prepared,” Gochnour said. She cited one important statistic: Unemployment claims are at 9.6% in Utah, less than half the national average.
“We have to address these challenges quickly,” Gochnour said. The moves the state performs must also be targeted, flexible, provide permanent benefits, and be innovative, she said.
“Now’s the time to do things differently,” she said.
The state must invest to help laid-off employees, Gochnour said. The plan includes state funding both for training in post-secondary education, and construction-ready infrastructure investment.
Gochnour said part of the 3.0 plan involves “triage” for identifying and protecting Utah’s high-risk population. “If you can keep the high-risk population safe, you can have the rest of the population doing more things,” Gochnour said.
Dr. Angela Dunn, the state’s epidemiologist, stressed the need for people to continue to look out for loved ones who are in “high-risk” groups. Those are the people who, if they catch COVID-19, are more likely to get sicker.
People in high-risk groups, Dunn said, are those over 65 years old, who live in long-term care facilities, and have “underlying conditions” — health concerns including heart disease, respiratory problems, kidney and liver issues, obesity and diabetes.
Dunn reiterated that everyone needs to protect high-risk groups by engaging in proper hygiene and social distancing. “The way high-risk individuals get infected is from low-risk individuals,” she said.
Many in Utah’s minority populations work two or three jobs, said Byron Russell, co-chair of the Utah Multicultural Committee, and have to leave their homes more often to work. When they do, he said, the “risk becomes even higher.”
“A lot of our minority communities are worried about being stigmatized for getting a test,” Russell said.
There’s no timetable for going from low-risk “yellow” to relatively risk-free “green,” Dunn said. “Our data don’t currently support it,” she said.
And Herbert bristled at the idea that some Utahns are ignoring the state’s safety guidelines, like wearing masks in public.
“We’re not back to normal, and I’m not sure we’ll ever get back to what we thought was normal,” Herbert said. “We’re in the middle of an emergency, still.”
“If you care about yourself and care about your neighbor…, you should be wearing a mask,” Herbert said. He cited research that fund that if everyone wore a face covering, the spread of the virus could be reduced by 70%.
Gochnour added: “It’s really a crisis of confidence. If you’re not confident you’ll be safe, you’re not going to go out.”
She added: “The best thing our state can do is follow public health guidance, and stay engaged in the economy,” and with that, Utah can continue to recover more quickly than some other states.
Herbert demurred when asked if he supports or opposes plans for a May 30 concert in Kaysville, featuring the country singer Collin Raye, being organized by an anti-shutdown protest group.
Herbert said larger groups can gather, but that “does presuppose that you follow certain social-distancing requirements,” as well as screening people and urging the wearing of masks.“
What we don’t want to send is an uncertain message, an uncertain signal,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed that there’s a lack of cooperation.”
The governor ended Wednesday’s briefing on an optimistic note: “I can promise you, we’ll recover faster than any other state in America.”
Herbert then told Utahns to “be grateful for the success that we’re having. A lot of it has to do with what you’re doing and your behavior.”
— Sean P. Means
1:45 p.m.: Governor releases a new stage of state’s 'Utah Leads Together’ plan
Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled the third stage of the state’s “Utah Leads Together” plan Wednesday, emerging farther out from the shutdown in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 3.0 plan, Herbert said, “does not mince any words about the overall economic challenges we have faced, and continue to face today.” But, he added, “there is reason to be optimistic and hopeful.”
“Our hearts break for those loved ones who have passed away,” Herbert said. “Utah mourns with you the lost loved ones, friends and family.” So far, 90 Utahns have died from COVID-19.
But many Utahns also are concerned about their livelihood, after the economic damage wrought from the pandemic, Herbert said.
Most Utah cities and towns moved into the low-risk “yellow” category last Friday, while a few — Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Magna, as well as Grand, Summit and Wasatch counties — remain in the moderate-risk “orange” level.
Herbert said that Summit and Wasatch counties have requested to move to “yellow,” and the Utah Department of Health is examining those requests. An answer should be forthcoming by the end of the week, Herbert said.
Herbert heralded a potential economic recovery in Utah. Seven companies have approached the state to expand in or move into Utah, he said.
“I think we’ll be pleased to see we’re doing much better than other states in America,” Herbert said. “It doesn’t mean we spike the football, though.”
Byron Russell, co-chair of the Utah Multicultural Committee, noted at the news conference that “this pandemic is not impacting everyone’s lives and livelihoods equally.”
Latino and Pacific Islander populations have higher rates of contracting COVID-19 than their populations represent, he added. Among the policy moves Russell said his committee is spotlighting is to look at the “systemic vulnerabilities” for Utah’s minority communities that the pandemic has exacerbated.
“You really can’t take talk about these ideas to the bank. We will need resources,” Russell said, adding that the committee will bring requests for appropriations to the Utah Legislature. “Restarting Utah’s recovery will take every Utahn to play a role,” he said.
— Sean P. Means
1:20 p.m.: Two more Utahns die from COVID-19, state reports
Two more Utahns have died from COVID-19, the Utah Department of Health announced Wednesday.
One of the deaths was a woman, over age 60, living in a Salt Lake County long-term care facility. The other was a man over 60, living in Utah County; UDOH did not know whether the man had been hospitalized or was living in long-term care.
Those fatalities bring the state’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic to 90. The news comes a day after UDOH announced eight new deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday — the largest one-day group of fatalities since the pandemic began.
A dozen new patients have been hospitalized, bringing the total to 631 hospitalizations. Utah has had 192 new cases of COVID-19 since Tuesday, UDOH reported — a daily rate increase of 2.6%. Overall, 7,710 cases have been reported in Utah.
The state considers 4,423 cases “recovered” — which is defined as going three weeks after a diagnosis of COVID-19 and not dying.
UDOH recorded 2,353 more people tested for the coronavirus Wednesday, compared to the previous day’s report. In total, 179,664 tests have been performed. The rate of positive tests is at 4.3%.
— Sean P. Means
1:05 p.m.: Red Butte Garden cancels the rest of its concert series
Red Butte Garden has canceled its summer outdoor concert series for 2020 because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Though the state of Utah and the University of Utah are starting to ease restrictions placed to stem the spread of COVID-19, Red Butte deputy director Derrek Hanson said in a statement Wednesday that the relaxed standards apply to small groups of people.
In fact, Hanson’s staff has begun to make adjustments to allow weddings and other small celebrations at the gardens on Salt Lake City’s East Bench.
“We just don’t expect that there will be a safe and responsible way to bring 3,000 concertgoers to the amphitheater this summer,” Hanson said, adding that the hope is to resume a concert schedule in 2021.
Previously, Red Butte had canceled plans for May and June concerts, in hopes that the rest of the summer might be spared. But, according to the venue, most performers have opted to cancel their 2020 tours, and work with venues and promoters to reschedule in 2021.
Red Butte had not announced its 2020 slate before the pandemic started spreading across the country. Two tours had announced now-canceled shows: Andrew Bird with Calexico + Iron and Wine on June 25; and the Steve Miller Band and Marty Stuart co-headlining on Aug. 25.
The gardens at Red Butte are closed because of the pandemic. Red Butte’s new executive director, Jimmy Turner, told The Salt Lake Tribune last week that he hopes to be able to reopen soon.
— Sean P. Means
1 p.m.: Four Salt Lake County cities plan joint fireworks show
Draper, Herriman, Riverton and South Jordan are set to hold a multi-city firework show May 30 “to honor all individuals who have been on the front lines dealing with the effects of COVID-19.”
The show, scheduled for 10 p.m., will originate from four locations, one in each city, and will be synchronized with a soundtrack playing on several iHeartRadio stations, including 97.1 ZHT, My 99.5, 94.1 KODJ, Rock 106.7 and Easy 99.1.
“Due to the pandemic, one of our scheduled firework shows couldn’t go on as usual; however, after brainstorming with the fireworks company and our great city staff, we presented this idea instead,” Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs said in a statement. “...We think it’s incredibly appropriate to recognize all who have worked so hard to combat the virus and the efforts of all our residents to stop the spread.”
People are encouraged to stay home to view the show and follow social distancing and group guidelines. The size of the fireworks “will allow a substantial majority of residents of the four cities and neighboring areas to see the show from their homes and neighborhoods.”
The firework show will be provided by Firestorm Pyrotechnics, Inc.
— Becky Jacobs
12:40 p.m.: Outdoor book drops are now open at Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County libraries
The Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County libraries remain closed, but you can start returning the books you checked out before they shut down in March.
The City Library has opened the outdoor book drops (with the exception of those at the Marmalade branch) and is accepting books, DVDs, CDs, comics and magazines. Librarians are asking you to hang on to other items, including Discovery kids and Book Club kits, until further notice.
By the way, the due date on everything checked out from the City Library is now June 30, and it won’t be charging any late fees.
The County Library has also opened book drops for all material that’s been checked out, although there’s “no rush on bringing your stuff back,” according to a tweet.
Beginning Tuesday, county branches will begin curbside service. Patrons can reserve books and other materials online at slcolibrary.org or by calling the library at 801-943-4636 and pick them up from library staffers, who will be masked and observe social distancing. The current plan is to open branches to patrons in “late June.”
— Scott D. Pierce
8:30 a.m.: Small-bites cafe is Salt Lake City’s first known coronavirus dining casualty
The 5-month-old Elevo restaurant in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Wells neighborhood has become one of Utah’s first known dining casualties of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, chef/owner Jen Gilroy announced on social media that the coffee, wine and small-bites cafe at 565 E. 2100 South, would permanently close May 30.
“We have loved serving you for this short time,” the post said.
Also on Tuesday, officials from the Utah State Prison announced the closure of the Serving Time Cafe, a popular breakfast and lunch joint in Draper that was staffed by incarcerated women.
Elevo — which served pastries, quiche, salads and flatbreads, and was becoming known for its signature mushroom and brie appetizer — had been trying to survive the COVID-19 shutdown by offering curbside takeout. When health restrictions allowed, it began dine-in service, with social distancing and other restrictions. But still it was not enough.
— Kathy Stephenson