Live coronavirus updates for Tuesday, May 26: State’s death toll crosses over 100, including a second homeless patient: COVID-19 hit its peak in late April on the Navajo Nation

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Utah Department of Health suits up as it prepares to test staff of West Jordan Care Center for the coronavirus on Thursday, May 21, 2020. The testing is part of a plan to test staff at all long-term care facilities, with centers for memory patients and the intellectually disabled receiving priority.

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It’s Tuesday, May 26. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day.

[Read more coronavirus coverage here.]


2:30 p.m.: Coronavirus hit its peak on the Navajo Nation in late April

The peak of the coronavirus pandemic on the Navajo Nation arrived in late April, according to a new analysis presented by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in a video town hall on Tuesday.

Nez said that earlier projections had estimated COVID-19’s strain on the reservation health care system would reach its apex in mid-May, but social distancing restrictions and other measures taken to flatten the curve appear to have been more effective than previously thought.

Experts now say the Navajo Nation’s health care facilities saw their peak use on April 24 or 25, with a steady decline in coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the weeks since, Nez said.

“The projection ... was updated to show that you all did your best,” Nez told members of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American reservation in the United States, which has one of the highest per capita case rates in the country. “The Navajo people should be commended. We all did this together just as our ancestors worked together.”

Nez also noted that the Navajo Nation has a higher per capita testing rate than any state in the U.S., with nearly 15% of reservation residents having been tested for the coronavirus. As of Sunday, the nation was reporting 156 deaths from the disease.

— Zak Podmore

2:10 p.m.: State’s death toll from COVID-19 tops 100

Utah passed a grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, as the state’s death toll from COVID-19 crossed over 100, the Utah Department of Health announced.

Three new fatalities were reported since the day before, UDOH said in its daily update. That brings the total number of people who have died from COVID-19 to 101.

The three people added to the tally were all between 60 and 85, and all had been hospitalized at the time of their deaths. Two were men from Salt Lake County, the third was a woman from San Juan County.

The state added 99 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Monday, bringing the total to 8,620. The new cases represent a daily rate increase of 1.2% from the day before.

Four more people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since Monday, UDOH reported. There are now 98 people with positive cases in the hospital. There have been 696 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

UDOH said 2,124 more people have been tested for COVID-19 since Monday. The total number of tests is 198,592, with a positive rate of 4.3% of all tested.

Since the pandemic began, UDOH reported, 5,346 people have recovered from COVID-19. The state’s definition of “recovered” is going three weeks since being diagnosed with the virus and not dying.

— Sean P. Means

1 p.m.: Second homeless individual among Utah’s 101 coronavirus deaths

A second person experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County has died of the coronavirus, a spokeswoman in the mayor’s office said Tuesday. There are also seven active coronavirus cases among the population, which has seen 215 positive diagnoses since the virus hit the state.

Of those cases, 207 are considered recovered, meaning the person who contracted the illness has survived for three weeks following a diagnosis for COVID-19.

Two of the 66 people who are currently hospitalized in the county are unhoused, and 27 of the 364 people who had been hospitalized overall as of Friday have been part of the homeless population — or around 7% of the population that has needed more demanding medical care.

Overall, homeless individuals represent 5% of the total COVID-19 cases in the county.

The county said Tuesday that 509 guests — the majority of whom are homeless and a few others who simply have no other place to safely quarantine — have stayed in county-owned buildings that have been mobilized as quarantine and isolation centers. County leaders have repeatedly declined to release the location of those centers but have confirmed that one is at the Holladay Lions Center in Millcreek.

People experiencing homelessness are thought to be more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus than the general population, since those who live in encampments often have limited access to hygiene services while people who rely on shelters find themselves in cramped rooms packed with dozens of others seeking refuge from the elements.

To stem the spread of the virus, homeless resource centers and shelters have established daily screenings for COVID-19 and focused on increased cleaning and sanitizing of their facilities.

Overall, nearly 1,100 members of the county’s homeless population have been tested for the coronavirus.

— Taylor Stevens

8:50 a.m.: Another LDS temple to reopen in Utah

All 15 operational temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah will be back on line Monday when the Vernal Temple reopens for limited use.

The edifices, where devout members participate in their faith’s most sacred religious ceremonies, are offering only marriage “sealings” for couples who already have gone through a temple ritual known as the endowment.

The marriage ceremonies take place Monday through Saturday by appointment only, according to a news release. A few family members may attend, and all government and public health directives must be observed, including “the use of safety equipment such as masks.”

These 14 Utah temples have already reopened: Bountiful, Brigham City, Cedar City, Draper, Jordan River in South Jordan, Logan, Manti, Monticello, Mount Timpanogos in American Fork, Ogden, Oquirrh Mountain in South Jordan, Payson, Provo and Provo City Center.

The Vernal Temple will join that list next week, the Utah-based faith announced Monday.

The Salt Lake and St. George temples, which are undergoing major renovations, remain closed. Seven more Latter-day Saint temples are planned or under construction in the Beehive State.

The church shuttered all of its more than 160 temples across the world in late March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some 52 have since returned to service in a phased fashion under restricted conditions. That number will rise to 66 next week.

— David Noyce