Live coronavirus updates for Friday, March 20: Salt Lake City councilman tests positive; Governor invites Utahns to pray and provide service this weekend

Utah News

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It’s Friday, March 20. We’ll provide the latest coronavirus updates involving Utah throughout the day. The number of positive cases in the state is now 112. The state still doesn’t have any deaths tied to COVID-19

[Read complete coronavirus coverage here.]

6:20 p.m. Utahns can file state taxes later

The Utah State Tax Commission is planning to allow Utahns to file their taxes later because of the coronavirus.

The commission said in a news release that it “intends to follow the federal government’s tax filing and payment actions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said federal tax day was moved back from April 15 to July 15 because of the pandemic. The Utah commission didn’t release any additional information, saying they are waiting for instructions for the Internal Revenue Service.

— Paighten Harkins

5:45 p.m.: Hill Air Force Base sees first confirmed case

Someone at Hill Air Force Base has been diagnosed with coronavirus, marking the first confirmed case at the base.

The announcement comes one day after the base declared a public health emergency and ramped up public health measures. The base is was also placed in “Health Protection Condition Bravo,” meaning it restricts all but necessary movement on the base and bans hand shaking.

The base already required members to practice social distancing and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people. It’s unclear if this case is included in the 112 confirmed diagnoses in Utah as of Friday.

— Paighten Harkins

5:40 p.m.: Salt Lake City Councilman Darin Mano tests positive

Salt Lake City Councilman Darin Mano has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mano, 35, is the newest city council member, and took office in January. He filled the District 5 seat, which Erin Mendenhall vacated after being sworn in as Salt Lake City mayor.

Mano is a small business owner and architect. According to a news release, Mano believes he was exposed to COVID-19 during a trip to Washington, D.C., early this month.

Five other council members were with Mano on the trip. Those members are taking precautions to prevent possible spread.

“No one expects to be affected by a health emergency like this, especially if you are typically a very healthy person,” Mano said. “I’m hopeful for a quick and full recovery and wish the same for everyone else with the virus.”

It’s unclear if Mano’s case is included in the 112 confirmed diagnoses in Utah as of Friday.

— Paighten Harkins

5:10 p.m.: Salt Lake City golf courses to close

All six Salt Lake City golf courses will stop play next week because of “unprecedented crowds” following state and local crackdowns on gatherings of people due to COVID-19.

Bonneville, Forest Dale, Glendale, Mountain Dell, Nibley Park and Rose Park golf courses will all be closed indefinitely, starting Monday, according to a news release.

Those planning to play this weekend will not be able to rent golf carts, use cash for payments or buy items at the pro shop. Food service is also suspended.

“We have had unprecedented crowds at our golf courses, which has made it difficult to keep our staff and the public safe from the community spread of COVID-19,” golf director Matt Kammeyer said. “We are asking for the public’s support as we examine how to shift our current practices to get the courses back open safely as soon as we can.”

— Paighten Harkins

5:05 p.m.: Gov. Gary Herbert suggests a weekend of prayer and service

Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday invited all Utahns to participate in a weekend of prayer and service. The official declaration from his office asked residents to help someone in need this weekend, and requested that those interested pray for “guidance, comfort, patient and healing” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration was also in response to this week’s 5.7 magnitude earthquake, which he said in addition to the coronavirus outbreak, had “significant effects” on all Utahns.

“We all stand in great need of comfort during these times of fear and uncertainty, and whereas I believe that such comfort can be found as we feel the guiding hand of God in our life,” the declaration said.

Herbert cautioned people to choose of acts of service that won’t increase the spread of the coronavirus.

— Paighten Harkins

5 p.m.: University of Utah extends deadline to take classes pass/fail

The University of Utah has extended the window for students to change their courses this semester to pass/fail in light of the closures on campus.

The decision came Friday after an online petition gained more than 7,000 signatures, calling on the school to create more flexibility for students amid the coronavirus pandemic. It pleaded: “This is not us quitting. This is allowing students to focus on surviving during these harsh and dark times.”

The move means that rather than get a letter grade, students can opt instead to get general credit if they do enough work to pass.

In a video message to campus, Senior Vice President Dan Reed acknowledged that the outbreak has caused stress among students. “We know it’s creating uncertainty for you,” he said.

Students can convert their classes to pass/fail up or withdraw completely until April 10 at registrar.utah.edu/spring-CR-NC.php. Reed encouraged all students to reach out to advisors first, via email, to see how it may impact certain courses and graduation requirements.

— Courtney Tanner

4 p.m.: Salt Lake County is repurposing facilities for COVID-19 needs

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Salt Lake County is repurposing all county-owned facilities that are not being used as originally planned for COVID-19 related needs, a spokeswoman for the county mayor’s office told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday.

County leaders are working to identify seven facilities with the capacity to house up to 250 people total.

“We have not yet decided when to move forward with activating these facilities or for what purpose, but it is likely that they will be used as quarantine facilities for people who can’t quarantine at home,” Chloe Morroni, a spokeswoman in the mayor’s office, said in an email.

Morroni said the county is considering those facilities for other purposes as well, including places to donate blood and store supplies.

“We don’t yet have a significant population of people that need to be quarantined outside of their home,” she continued. “But as a proactive measure, we are getting the facilities ready so that we will be able to ramp up when and if the situation changes.”

Morroni said the county has already communicated with local leaders in the municipalities where the seven facilities are located.

— Taylor Stevens

Washington • Sen. Mitt Romney has introduced legislation to allow college students graduating this year to defer their student loans for up to three years.

Romney, R-Utah, said the move could help students trying to get a job in an economy struggling because of the novel coronavirus crisis.

“Students graduating from college this year are suddenly facing significant hurdles entering the workforce,” Romney said.

The legislation builds on the efforts by the White House to suspend federal loan payments for up to 60 days.

“We must further ease the burden on students by allowing them to defer their payments until the economy regains normalcy,” Romney said.

Students who graduate from college in the 2020 calendar year would be eligible under Romney’s idea with an option for the secretary of the Department of Education to extend the deferment to students in 2021 and 2022 if the economy has not recovered.

— Thomas Burr

2:30 p.m.: A new symptom checker launched by Intermountain

Intermountain Healthcare launched a new, free online tool, the COVID-19 Symptom Checker, to help people determine their risk for the virus.

The Symptom Checker can be found by clicking on the chat bubble at the bottom of each page on the Intermountain Healthcare website. Users are led through a series of questions, such as about their travel, symptoms and if they’ve been near someone who’s been exposed. Then, they are directed to resources.

“Answer as honestly and accurately as you’re able to do,” said Susan Tew, assistant vice president of consumer experience at Intermountain.

The Symptom Checker, which can also be used to ask questions and learn about COVID-19, is regularly updated based on CDC and WHO guidelines.

When the the tool was launched Thursday night, 2,100 people accessed it between 7:30 p.m. and midnight, Tew said.

— Becky Jacobs

Salt Lake City’s Table X will host a drive-up bake sale Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the restaurant, 1457 E. 3350 South.

Fresh breads, muffins, granola and other baked goods will be available for purchase. Remain in your car and buy coffee, kombucha and local honey — as well as bottles of the house-made lamb ragu and kimchi.

“Come see us (not all at once),” the owners wrote on Facebook, “and get something to warm your spirits in these trying times!”

Table X also offers limited delivery within five miles of the restaurant.

— Zoi Walker

1:09 p.m.: State officials ‘expect to have more community spread’

Utah’s point person on coronavirus said Friday that the state’s case count — up to 112 cases statewide — is still more people who traveled out of state than caught it closer to home, but that will likely change.

“We expect to have more community spread,” said Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist. That’s why the state is stressing that people practice social distancing and “staying home when you’re sick,” she said at the Utah Department of Health’s daily news briefing.

Utah has had no deaths from COVID-19, and Dunn said many who have contracted the virus have recovered.

Still, concerns about shortages in health care equipment — including ventilators for people with respiratory problems — are behind the state’s efforts to encourage social distancing, to slow the spread of the virus.

“We need to keep people out of the hospital, and as healthy as possible,” Dunn said, “to prevent that surge on our health care system.”

UDOH does not divulge the number of ventilators in the state, Dunn said, calling it proprietary information for the state’s hospitals. Officials, she said, will talk to hospitals about releasing an aggregate figure.

Dunn reiterated that hospitals and public health officials are working to conserve personal protection equipment — masks, gloves and such — so there is enough for health care workers to use as the number of cases grows.

Based on models and experience with past epidemics, “it takes several weeks to get to the peak [of the outbreak] before we flatten it,” Dunn said.

While health officials stress social distancing, Dunn said that mental health is also important. People, she said, should “not be afraid of doing the things we enjoy doing in small groups. … We need to be able to balance that, because we will be doing this for awhile.”

1:01 p.m.: Student government at University of Utah sets aside $80,000 to help students during outbreak

The University of Utah’s student government has set aside $80,000 in its budget to offer support for students struggling with the coronavirus closures.

AnnaMarie Barnes, U. student body president, wrote on Twitter that the measure is “the most important piece of legislation I have signed.”

The initiative allocates $15,000 for food and medical supplies to go to the pantry on campus. Additionally, $65,000 will be put in a need-based emergency grant fund. Students financially impacted by the virus, including not being able to work, can apply to the fund and get up to $500 to cover rent or other expenses.

Student Senator Devon Cantwell, who drafted the proposal, said she’s already heard from more than 500 people at the U. who have asked for help with money and food. The measure is in direct response to that.

Additionally, the student government there intends to provide another $60,000 to the library and housing on campus for more resources, including laptops and Wi-Fi.

— Courtney Tanner

12:17 p.m.: 112 confirmed Utah cases of COVID-19 reported Friday

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Utah rose to 112, state officials reported on Friday, up from 78 on Thursday.

The biggest jumps were in Salt Lake County (46 cases, up from 31), Summit County (35 cases, up from 26) and Davis County (12, up from 6).

The Weber-Morgan Health District reported two new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 6.

Tooele and Wasatch counties each reported one new case on Friday, bringing Tooele County to two cases and Wasatch County to four cases.

All newly confirmed patients were Utah residents.

— Erin Alberty

11 a.m.: Utah working on changes to the state tax deadline

A spokeswoman for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday that state leaders are exploring changes to the tax deadlines in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Additional details will be provided once there is consensus on the part of state leaders,” said Anna Lehnardt.

The federal deadline for filing tax returns was pushed to July 15, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced on Thursday. But state law continues to impose penalties for missing the traditional tax deadline on April 15.

Abby Osborn, the Utah House chief of staff, wrote on Twitter that a state executive order would likely waive penalties through July, while the income tax returns would continue to be required by mid-April.

— Benjamin Wood

10:50 a.m.: University of Utah Hospitals to set up drive-up health checks

The University of Utah is going to offer drive-up assessments for patients who think they may need to be tested for COVID-19.

The U. health system has already set up a few drive-up testing stations, intended only for patients directed there by a doctor — mostly by way of a Virtual Urgent Care appointment.

But as wait times for the online appointments have grown to more than an hour at peak traffic — and cars have shown up at the testing stations even without doctors’ referrals — the U. is switching tactics.

Patients are still asked to call the U. coronavirus hotline — 1-801-587-0712 — or set up an online appointment first. People will only be tested for COVID-19 if they meet certain criteria.

The University of Utah will offer more details at a news briefing this afternoon.

— Matt Canham and Erin Alberty

9:36 a.m. Utah County Sheriff’s Office will not issue citations to gatherings of 10 or more people

“Recent media coverage has highlighted that a violation of this Health Department Order is a Class B misdemeanor,” the sheriff’s office posted in a statement. “This information is true; however, Sheriff Smith has stated that he will not be instructing deputies to enforce this order through issuing citations at this time. He stresses this is a community problem and it is his desire to combat this as a community and asks for your support in this effort.”

— Erin Alberty

8:32 a.m.: Health officials issue strict guidelines for in-home isolation — including no contact with pets

Unsurprisingly, patients are asked to separate themselves from the rest of their families if they have symptoms and have had contact with a known COVID-19 patient or have traveled to an affected area.

But health officials now also advise isolation within the home for people who have symptoms — fever, cough and shortness of breath — even if they have no other risk factors for exposures.

And people with no symptoms at all need to isolate themselves from their families, if they have had contact with a known COVID-19 patient or traveled to an affected area, the chart recommends.

(Image from the Salt Lake County Health Department) A flowchart released on March 19, 2020 by Salt Lake County health officials issues advice on isolating within the home amid the spread of coronavirus.

The guidelines call for affected residents to isolate themselves not only from human family members, but also from any pets that have contact with the rest of the household.

“Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home,” the chart recommends.

“However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals,” county health officials wrote.

People who are affected should not share household objects, use good hygiene, and stay home except for medical care, the chart recommends. If symptoms are severe, patients should contact their health provider by phone or online.

— Erin Alberty

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