Live coronavirus updates for Thursday, May 21: Utah announces two deaths; Summit and Wasatch counties move to yellow status

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) People walk Main Street in Park City, Friday, Mar. 27, 2020. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert late Thursday afternoon issued an executive order moving Summit and Wasatch counties to a low health-risk status of yellow.

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It’s Thursday, May 21. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read more coronavirus coverage here.]


6:20 p.m.: Summit, Wasatch counties move to yellow health risk status

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert late Thursday afternoon issued an executive order moving Summit and Wasatch counties to a low health-risk status of yellow. Herbert’s order is effective immediately, in time for Memorial Day weekend.

People in those counties can now gather in groups of up to 50, and businesses can open. Team sports can resume as long as participants are checked for symptoms first.

On May 14, Herbert moved most of the state from a moderate level orange down to yellow, with the exception of Salt Lake City and West Valley City, as well as Summit, Wasatch and Grand counties. That yellow level went into effect on Saturday.

Salt Lake City, West Valley and Grand County remain at orange heading into the holiday weekend.

— Josh Newman

5:40 p.m.: Summer activities, services at Zion will be limited, park officials say

With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, Zion National Park officials announced Thursday there will be limited trails, activities and services available this summer. That includes Memorial Day weekend, which is traditionally, the park’s busiest weekend.

The park is currently open for day use only, unless staying at Zion Lodge or Watchman Campground. No entry fees are being charged at this time, while the park has planned a phased resumption of operations that will likely span several months. Visitors are encouraged to visit nps.gov/zion to see which activities, trails and facilities are currently available.

“Visitors should come prepared, both for crowded conditions, and for the activities they are planning,” superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said in a statement. “With a great many people visiting, please be patient with others and remember to use COVID-19 sanitation practices. Health and safety is everyone’s responsibility. Please avoid unsafe behaviors and risk-taking. Multiple emergencies are common during busy periods, stretching the availability of search and rescue, emergency medical, and fire-fighting capabilities.”

— Josh Newman

3:35 p.m.: New initiative encourages Utahns to eat food grown close to home

“Bringing Confidence to the Table” — a new initiative that encourages Utahns to buy locally produced food and agriculture products — was launched Thursday by the state-run Utah’s Own program

“We hope to educate folks on the food and agriculture that’s being produced around them, and provide a way for everyone to reap the benefits of living in a place like Utah,” said Logan Wilde, commissioner of Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, which runs Utah’s Own.

In a news release, he said the educational campaign will promote the UtahsOwn.org website, which lists Utah food producers and where to buy their products.

The program will also work to educate Utahns on the farm-to-table process and improve trust in the state’s food safety standards.

While there is a growing concern about the national food supply chain, Utah’s network is “dependable and secure,” Wilde said in the release. “Every part of Utah’s food sector is currently working together and finding ways to continue to raise and deliver safe local food to our tables.”

— Kathy Stephenson

1:20 p.m.: Utah announces two new deaths

Two more Utahns have died from COVID-19, state health officials announced on Thursday.

The patients both were Salt Lake County women. One, who was older than 85, lived in a long-term care facility. The other, who was between 60 and 85, was hospitalized when she died. The new fatalities bring the state’s coronavirus death toll to 92.

Sixteen new patients have been hospitalized, up four from Wednesday’s increase of 12 patients. There have been 647 hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Utah since the pandemic began, with 109 of those patients still receiving hospital care.

The state reported 164 new confirmed cases of the virus on Thursday, bringing the total to 7,874 cases — an increase of 2.1% since Wednesday. Of those, 4,596 are considered “recovered” — that is, they have survived for three weeks following a diagnosis for COVID-19.

The state reported new test results for 3,210 people between Wednesday and Thursday, with 5.1.% of those testing positive. In total, 182,874 tests have been conducted, with an overall positive rate of 4.3%.

— Erin Alberty

10:30 a.m.: Volunteers of America now seeking more community help

Volunteers of America, Utah, is thanking those who have volunteered during the pandemic and asking for people to sign up.

The organization, which helps vulnerable individuals along the Wasatch Front struggling with homelessness, addiction and mental illness, has set new policies and procedures in place while attempting to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The biggest need right now is being able to provide meals at the Youth Resource Center, Center for Women and Children, and the Geraldine E. King Women’s Resource Center. For those interested in learning about the precautions taking place at each center, visit voaut.org/volunteer.

Academy Mortgage has volunteered at the Youth Resource Center for the past three years.

“Even though COVID-19 has impacted the way Academy serves lunch each week, we continue our commitment to Volunteers of America, Utah by providing lunch from a different local restaurant every Wednesday,” Chad Booth, employee experience manager of Academy Mortgage, said.

— Norma Gonzalez

9 a.m.: Salt Lake County to give $750K to Utah Food Bank

The Utah Food bank will get a $750,000 grant from Salt Lake County, officials announced Thursday, to help provide 1.1 million pounds of food to residents in need.

“As we’ve worked with residents and our community partners these past two months during the pandemic, we saw this great need requiring our response,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said in a news release. “No family should go hungry as we work together to remain safe during this public health crisis. To that end, we’re anxious to further our great partnership with Utah Food Bank.”

The pandemic has created new challenges for residents facing food insecurity. According to the food bank, the needs at some food banks and pantries have increased two to three times across Utah, while individual and retail food donations have decreased.

As part of the $750,000 grant from the county, gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment will also be included for the health and safety of Utah Food Bank’s staff working on the front lines, said Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank.

“This virus has touched us all in so many different ways,” Bott said, “and helping folks get through this trying time can only be done through collaboration and partnerships.”

Salt Lake County residents who are in need of assistance, or know an individual who is struggling, should visit https://www.utahfoodbank.org/get-help/ to locate resources.

Residents can also call 2-1-1 if they need help finding a pantry. Personal donations to further aid the Utah Food Bank’s efforts can be made online by visiting https://bit.ly/2zs3ffa.

— Kathy Stephenson

8:30 a.m.: Kaysville protest concert relocated

The live concert with country star Collin Raye has been moved from Kaysville, where it caused controversy, to Studio Ranch Amphitheater near Grantsville, the Utah Business Revival announced Thursday.

The Utah Business Revival has pushed to reopen small businesses in Utah faster than the government. The new venue will have space for up to 300 businesses to set up a free booth.

The relocation stems from a difference of opinion between Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt and the City Council.

Witt, who is also running for Congress in the 1st District, came under fire from the council for defying state COVID-19 restrictions by allowing this protest concert to be held. The change in venue was a decision made through a resolution from the council, who was working to disavow Witt’s actions.

The concert and business market are set for May 30, 6-10 p.m. The event is free.

— Norma Gonzalez

7 a.m.: Unemployment filings continue to slow

Utah’s unemployment filings have continued to edge down, but still have a long way to go to get to normal levels.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 6,275 state residents sought jobless benefits last week, for a sixth consecutive weekly decline from a high of 33,000 in early April. Before the pandemic, Utah usually saw 1,000 to 1,500 unemployment claims filed in a week.

They are among another 2.4 million Americans seeking unemployment the same week ending May 16. That brought the country to a sobering total of 38.9 million people thrown out of work, furloughed or had their pay cut during the pandemic.

More than 180,000 Utahns have now reported job displacements since mid-March, including at least 21,000 self-employed and so-called gig workers, now covered for jobless benefits for the first time thanks to Congress.

Those numbers were released Thursday as Utah continues to ease COVID-19 restrictions and some residents begin to return to work, though in many cases, on a part-time basis.

The Labor Department reported the U.S. unemployment rate for April at 14.7%, a record.

Jobless claims filed in Utah between March 16 and May 10, meanwhile, are thought by economists to represent about 9.6% of the state’s labor force, though the state’s actual jobless rate won’t be released until Friday.

— Tony Semerad

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