The Utah County Health Department has alerted Brigham Young University that a man with coronavirus attended a basketball game at the Provo school late last month.
BYU tweeted the alert Monday, saying the man had “mild symptoms” when he went to the game on Feb. 22 — more than two weeks ago.
“The risk of transmission to others at the game is low,” BYU said. “As a precaution, those who were sitting within six feet of the individual are being contacted to let them know of the possible exposure.”
The patient who attended the game is the Davis County man who tested positive for the coronavirus Friday, said Utah County Health Department spokeswoman Aislynn Tolman-Hill. State officials have said the man, who is over 60 years old, likely contracted the virus on a cruise in recent weeks. The patient was sent home to recover and is under a county-issued isolation order.
Health officials began looking into possible transmission at the basketball game this weekend while investigating the man’s activities to learn who has had contact with him. The health department is reaching out to those who may be affected, Tolman-Hill said, which is about 10 individuals. Anyone else who was at the game does not need to take action, she said.
All surfaces at the Marriott Center basketball arena have been disinfected, the school added. The game at BYU was against Gonzaga and was played before a sold-out crowd — the first since 2017. The arena’s capacity is just below 19,000.
When asked about the case, a spokesperson with the Utah Coronavirus Task Force said she didn’t realize the investigation into possible transmission at the game had been made public. It is unclear whether or when state officials intended to alert the public about the case if BYU had not released the information. But Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who’s leading the task force, tweeted about it Monday, saying everyone who may have risked contagion “has been contacted.”
Because the risk of transmission was limited to those sitting near the patient, health officials determined there was no epidemiological need to alert the public.
“We have been working very closely with BYU, and this was an event at one of their facilities,” Tolman-Hill said. “They decided that they wanted to be the ones to release the information.”
Attendees who were sitting near the patient have been asked to monitor their own symptoms. If they develop any, they will be tested, Tolman-Hill said. Last week, Utah health officials said there were materials for 400 tests in the state, and it’s unclear how many of those have since been used by patients who have traveled to areas where the virus has spread or who have had contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients.
Neither the Utah Department of Health nor the Utah Coronavirus Task Force had responded to media inquiries as of Monday afternoon, and Tolman-Hill said the Utah County department does not have information about the availability of tests for the virus.
BYU’s spokeswoman did not respond to questions on how soon after the Feb. 22 game the stadium was sanitized or when BYU found out about the man’s attendance. She referred questions to the state health department and advised individuals to look at the website byu.edu/coronavirus.
Utah’s U.S. Rep. John Curtis, whose jurisdiction includes Provo, said on Twitter that he has been monitoring the situation. He called it a “reminder to stay home if you are experiencing any of the #COVID2019 symptoms.”
Previously the state had only one other confirmed patient. A St. George man tested positive while in quarantine after an outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship near Japan and later returned to Utah for treatment at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. He developed no symptoms and was discharged from hospital care last week under orders to self-quarantine at his home.
Those who have the coronavirus experience symptoms similar to the flu, including a fever, cough and runny nose. Hospitals across the state have been preparing for the illness to spread, including putting up tents and advising individuals to call ahead before coming to the emergency room.
U. halts travel
University of Utah President Ruth Watkins on Monday instructed faculty, staff and students to cancel all university-related travel through April 30.
“We also encourage you to avoid personal travel outside the state of Utah,” Watkins said in a campuswide email. “If you do travel, you may be restricted from returning to work, depending on your health and the risk of COVID-19 in the area you visited.”
Watkins wrote that the U. is not canceling on-campus classes yet, “but we are reviewing the feasibility of moving large enrollment classes to online formats.”
The University of Utah Athletic Department said Monday it has no plans to restrict travel for players and teams.
Intermountain restricts visitors
Intermountain Healthcare enacted hospital visitor restrictions Monday, saying patients at its facilities may have only two visitors at one time.
The restrictions do apply to labor and delivery patients, as well as patients at prenatal visits, officials confirmed. Families who cannot secure child care for older children should contact the facility before picking up newborns and their mothers to return to their homes, Intermountain officials said.
Visitors are forbidden for adult patients with COVID-19, or coronavirus, Intermountain wrote on a social media post. Parents of any children who may be diagnosed with COVID-19 will receive safety training to accompany young patients, Intermountain officials said.
“This restriction is being put in place for the safety of you, our patients, caregivers and community,” the post stated.
Anyone who is sick should not visit or accompany other patients, or enter a health care facility except to seek care for themselves, and visitors or companions younger than 18 are “strongly” discouraged, the post stated. Visitors should wash their hands or use alcohol sanitizer before and after leaving any patient room, exam room and a facility.
The same rules also apply to credit unions on hospital campuses; members are asked not to visit if they are sick.
University Hospital opens “pre-triage" tents
The University of Utah Hospital installed two large tents, ready to diagnose future coronavirus patients, outside its emergency department over the weekend.
Patients would first enter a “pre-triage tent” for an initial assessment, Alison Flynn Gaffney, executive director for service lines, ancillary and support services for UHealth, explained during a media tour Monday.
“If you break your leg, and have no respiratory issues, you’re going to the emergency department,” Gaffney said. If a patient has respiratory problems — coughing, fever, flulike symptoms — he or she would be sent to the temporary tents for diagnosis.
Depending on the severity of each case, Gaffney said, a patient could be sent home for self-quarantine or admitted to the hospital.
The tents are each 20 feet wide, half-pipe structures; one is 75 feet long, the other is 35 feet long. The longer tent can take 25 patients at a time, though that could be doubled if needed, Gaffney said. The tents have “negative pressure,” meaning the air is constantly recycled. All the air in the larger tent is filtered every 3½ to 4 minutes, Gaffney said.
UHealth has five large tents available and could erect more at its other locations if a major outbreak hit Utah, said Philip Chaffee, senior director of emergency management. “It provides an extra level of comfort and peace of mind, because we know that we’re positioned and able to surge and manage whatever does come our way."
The hospital’s cafeteria, following the lead of the Starbucks chain, has banned the use of personal coffee cups, a UHealth spokeswoman added.
Utah Jazz add sanitizer stations
Fans of the Utah Jazz may notice more hand sanitizers in the concourses of Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The Larry H. Miller Group announced Monday it was taking “proactive and preventive measures” to reduce the risk of infection for customers, guests and employees. More dispensers of hand sanitizers will be installed at The Viv and Megaplex movie theaters, the company announced.
Restrooms and common rooms, as well as high-contact surfaces such as door handles, will be sanitized multiple times a day. More signs and information will be displayed, listing recommended hygiene practices.
LHM Group is also telling employees to suspend nonessential business trips, and use teleconferencing and other technology as a substitute.
Tribune reporters Sean P. Means and Josh Newman contributed to this story.